LNG has role to play in shipping’s transition to net zero, argues coalition

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Ahead of the COP26 climate talks, UK-based non-profit coalition SEA-LNG has warned that barring fuels from the shipping’s decarbonisation strategy will hamper the drive towards net-zero. The shipping industry, its regulators, and its supporters need to focus on reducing emissions “without prejudging the technology needed to achieve that”, it argues.

The rapidly growing order book for LNG-fuelled vessels illustrates that “increasing numbers of ship owners and operators understand the benefits of this environmentally friendly fuel,” it states. “LNG’s transition pathway to carbon-neutral shipping services, through the use of bio LNG and synthetic LNG, is clear and well defined.

“It is often overlooked that all synthetic fuels, such as synthetic LNG, green ammonia, and green methanol are derived from the same building block – hydrogen produced from electrolysis using renewable electricity,” SEA-LNG continues. “Consequently, they all face the same challenge – the need for massive amounts of renewable energy that does not exist today.

“Hundreds of billions of dollars will need to be invested over decades before these fuels can be scaled to the level needed to serve the maritime industry.

“Knowledgeable shipowners understand this fact and accept the reality that a basket of future fuels will likely be needed to reach the shipping industry’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goals. Vessel types, deployments and usage will all be factors when deciding the best alternative fuel in the coming decades.

“Many owners know that bio and synthetic LNG can be used interchangeably with existing LNG bulk infrastructure, supply chains, bunkering vessels, dual fuel engines and the fuel storage, and supply systems onboard these vessels. No expensive retrofit is required as demonstrated by the recent bunkering of Unifeeder’s ElbBlue with synthetic LNG. They also know that there is minimal methane slip in the high-pressure engines that can be purchased today. Further, low-pressure engines have been improved significantly and continue to improve.”

The SEA-LNG statement follows remarks in the press last month by Maersk CEO Søren Skou who suggested that a ban on all oil-fuelled vessels should be introduced to help shipping’s decarbonisation effort. Maersk recently ordered eight methanol-fuelled vessels and has additionally identified ammonia, biodiesel and lignin – which is produced from biomass like rice – as fuels that can help it reach carbon neutrality by 2050.

“We must support the regulators’ drive towards goal-based and technology-neutral policy and regulation,” counters SEA-LNG. “This will facilitate the development of a complete basket of viable fuels that will be essential for a successful carbon-neutral future.

“The task ahead will not be easy, but we must remain diligent in our examination of LNG’s pathway to bio and synthetic LNG, as well as all future alternatives showing promise and potential.