News ID: 80446 |
Publish Date: 10:51 - 20 October 2019

LNG marine fuel ‘no better than gasoil or fuel oil’

Belgium-based lobby group Seas at Risk has criticised The Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel. The critique centres on the fact that it thinks ammonia and hydrogen should be the fuels of the future, rather than LNG.

As the January 2020 deadline for exhaust gas emissions from ships approaches, a public relations battle is heating up about what the best alternatives are to meet the new rules. LNG is presently under fire from a Belgium-based lobby group Seas at Risk.

OPPOSITION to the use of liquefied natural gas for marine propulsion is intensifying after one environmental group denounced the fuel as no better than marine gasoil and attacked groups positioning it as a viable alternative fuel with a better carbon footprint than traditional fuel.

John Maggs, from the Belgium-based lobby group Seas at Risk, criticised The Society for Gas as a Marine Fuel over its presentation supporting LNG at an International Maritime Organization forum in London this week.

Serious challenges remain to decarbonise the world’s 60,000-vessel fleet and meet the IMO target of reducing shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 because no commercial alternatives to fossil fuels have yet emerged.

“The real answer in the longer term is going to be alternative fuels,” said Mr Maggs. “It might be hydrogen, it might be ammonia, it might be something else, but it’s not going to be LNG.

“Talking up LNG in situations like this around climate in our view is irresponsible. It’s going to send interests within the industry in precisely the wrong direction.”

He cited a number of reports showing that the carbon footprint of LNG was similar to, or worse than, marine gasoil or high sulphur fuel oil.

The maritime industry has been slow to embrace LNG as a marine fuel, but it is now used by 170 ships, or 0.2% of the fleet, according to the society, which gave a presentation to the IMO forum.

A further 184 LNG-fuelled ships were on order, with 75 ports and terminals supplying LNG with more than 9,000 bunker transfers, the society’s director Mark Bell told the forum.

Mr Bell claimed LNG-fuelled ships reduced greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 21%. But Mr Maggs said the study on which these claims were based was commissioned by the gas industry and based on faulty methodology about methane slip for marine engines.

Mr Bell told Lloyd’s List the society stood by this report from which the figures were drawn for the IMO presentation, which was published in April, and based on the best information available at the time.

The study was undertaken on their behalf by Thinkstep, a consultancy that provides sustainability advice to business. Its team leader for energy, oil and gas, Oliver Schuller was also present at the IMO forum.

Talking about LNG as a solution to meet shipping targets for 2050 greenhouse gas emissions “was just wrong”, Mr Maggs said.

“It looks like the society has got its numbers wrong and its misleading for everybody in the room to hear that.”

Seas at Risk, via a lobby group called the Clean Shipping Coalition, has filed a paper for the next IMO intersessional meeting for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

“LNG has substantial methane emissions throughout the supply chain (well-to-wake), which means that even with the use of high-pressure engines, with lower methane slip, the overall life cycle analysis would show little or no carbon savings and, in many cases, worse performance compared with HFO/MGO,” the paper concluded.

At present, ships’ bunkers comprise just over 3m barrels per day of total consumption of 100m barrels per day. This is mostly high sulphur fuel oil, though this will change in January when new regulations mandate the use of complaint fuel with less than 0.5% sulphur.

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