Hydrogen will be the dominant fuel but LNG is the bridge, says Shell boss


Hydrogen is likely to be the dominant fuel for international shipping, with LNG playing a vital role in the interim, according to Grahaeme Henderson, Global Head of Shipping & Maritime at Shell.

Addressing the Singapore Maritime Technology Conference as part of Singapore Maritime Week, he said this will ensure the industry reduces cumulative emissions now, while hydrogen is developed commercially and at scale. This is because, of course, any new fuel is going to take time to test, commercialise and scale – even as the sector pushes to do that as quickly as possible.

“Our modelling shows that the fastest pathway to net-zero, with the lowest total emissions, is the accelerated adoption of LNG, combined with widespread use of Energy Efficient Technologies, while developing fuel cells ready to transition directly to zero emission fuels in the future.

“I want to look at the important role LNG can play in driving decarbonisation and aiding the transition to future fuels. There has been much discussion on this topic in the last week with two new reports, from the World Bank and Sphera highlighting some of the opportunities and challenges of an LNG pathway,” he told delegates.

One thing he was clear about was that LNG is the lowest emission fuel available at scale in the shipping sector today. It has no near rival in this regard, he said.

According to Sphera’s latest study, LNG reduces greenhouse gases by up to 23% on a Well-to-Wake basis and up to 30% on a Tank-to-Wake basis compared with current oil-based marine fuels. LNG-fuelled vessels emit virtually no SOx while dramatically limiting emissions of NOx. It also virtually eliminates particulate matter.

As both the Sphera and World Bank reports rightly point out, greenhouse gas performance must include measurement, and effective management of methane. Methane, a potent greenhouse gas has to be tackled across the supply chain. And new technologies, such as sensors and drones are providing the innovation for the industry to improve its performance here. For example, Shell has a methane emissions target of 0.2% by 2025. On the ship itself, the Sphera report uses the very latest primary data sources, peer-reviewed, in its finding that engines built today experience only minimal methane slip.

“So, to minimise cumulative emissions from the shipping sector before future fuels are available in enough quantity for the global shipping fleet, LNG is the choice today. And when we turn to the need for a global bunkering network, LNG is available in more than 150 ports around the world. And this is growing to meet demand – there are now more than 600 LNG-fuelled vessels on the water. Ports such as Rotterdam, Singapore and Canaveral are seeing the case to invest. And this investment, used by LNG today is interchangeable with bio and synthetic options, providing a low risk, long-term decarbonisation alternative for infrastructure players and ship owners,” he said.

LNG already has its own pathway to decarbonisation through bio-LNG. The European Biogas Association expects an increase in biogas in Europe by 2030 to be ten times today’s volumes, and according to a study by the International Energy Agency (IEA), every part of the world has significant scope to produce biogas and/or biomethane, a fundamental part of bio-LNG. Other technologies, such as carbon capture and storage and synthetic-LNG, will also go through the development cycle to play a role.

“We believe LNG must be a part of the solution to ensure that the new build investments the sector makes today, which will be the legacy fleet for the coming decades, have as low emissions as possible. In addition, new technologies and feedstocks will enable LNG to incrementally decarbonise over that same time period. The sector cannot afford to simply wait for alternative fuels,” he concluded.