LNG AS A MARINE FUEL
We all need to do more to help break down the commercial barriers to LNG, particularly in the deep-sea shipping segment. From LNG suppliers, bunkering companies, shipping lines, and shipyards, to OEMs, classification societies, and port authorities, organisations from across the marine value chain must work together to collectively drive the change needed for the Industry to meet the environmental thresholds. LNG provides an essential solution for the long term. Learn more on addressing and overcoming the key barriers to uptake.
Ocean shipping is essential for global trade. Trade will increase significantly as the world’s population grows and income levels rise. The shipping industry will need to expand and continue to strive for greater efficiencies to meet this growing demand.
Shipping remains the most efficient form of transporting freight on a tonne per kilometre basis. However, shipping companies must take measures to improve their emissions performance as ocean-going vessels can emit levels of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) that have the potential to impact populations living near ports and coastlines, as well as those living further inland.
To address these issues, in October 2016 the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) affirmed its decision to implement a much tighter global sulphur cap of 0.5% on marine fuels from January 2020. This action is designed to dramatically reduce the emissions produced by vessels using heavy marine fuel oils. Ship owners and operators and the associated supply chains will need to make major investments to comply with these new global limits. Potential compliant solutions for the deep-sea shipping industry include LNG; the continued use of high sulphur fuel oil (HFO) with exhaust gas cleaning systems (also known as scrubbers); and new formulations of low sulphur marine fuels such as low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO) and marine gas oil (MGO). Of these, LNG provides an essential solution for the long term, as it addresses the core issue: the fuel itself.
A key consideration for ship owners when evaluating these solutions is the investment required for new marine fuel systems and emission abatement solutions such as scrubbers, and the possibility that these investments may not be adequate to meet more stringent regulation. Emissions limits are almost certain to become more stringent over time. The European Union (EU) has already agreed that, in 2020, the 0.5% sulphur requirement will apply within 200 miles of EU Member States’ coasts. In September 2015, China announced a five-year scheme to reduce SOx and NOx by up to 65% in three ECAs, which includes some of China’s major ports. And, in addition, designation of many more ECAs is expected from the IMO, including countries and regions such as Mexico, Central America, the Mediterranean, the northern coast of Norway and the Barents Sea, the Strait of Malacca, the coast of China, the territorial waters of Japan and Australia, and the Arctic and Antarctic.
LNG far out-performs conventional marine fuels on a local emissions basis, effectively insulating companies from the impact of future, more demanding, regulation. LNG emits zero SOx and virtually zero particulate matter. Compared to existing heavy marine fuel oils, LNG can, depending on the technology used, emit 90% fewer NOx emissions.
LNG’s greenhouse gas (GHG) performance represents a major step forward when compared with traditional marine fuels. Utilising best practices and appropriate technologies to minimise methane leakage, realistic reductions of GHG by 10-20% are achievable, with a potential for up to 25% compared with conventional oil-based fuels.
In the longer term, as pressure grows on the shipping sector to contribute even more to global GHG reductions, LNG-fuelled vessels and bunkering infrastructure provide an obvious potential decarbonisation pathway through the substitution of conventional (fossil fuel) LNG with bio-LNG, as technology developments allow.