Now that we have passed 1st January 2020, the much anticipated global sulphur cap is finally a reality. The importance of this clean air initiative for global health is widely agreed and should not be under emphasised. Likewise, the critical role that LNG can play in clean air and global health initiatives must not be forgotten or trivialised as these are still matters of real concern to the world’s citizens. This time last year I said 2019 would be the year of acceleration for LNG, and it was! With increasing orders for LNG-fuelled vessels and LNG bunker vessels, together with expanding infrastructure shoreside to provide the critical last-mile delivery of LNG to ships; LNG as a marine fuel remains THE economic and environmental choice. Increasingly too, LNG is seen as THE transition fuel to a net-zero carbon future. While we anticipate LNG as marine fuel will evolve into bio or synthetic methane, the LNG safety and operational guidelines, as well as infrastructure, will act as best practice for the adoption of alternative fuels over the longer term.
As attention now turns to the carbon emissions reduction targets for 2030 and 2050, we must recognise that, in 2020, we are well down the road from the 2008 baseline and there must be a pragmatic chronology to achieving a more sustainable, decarbonised future for shipping. The global deep sea fleet consists of more than 60,000 vessels with an average life expectancy well in excess of 25 years. This fleet, that fuels the economy – upon which we all depend – cannot be turned around overnight. This is precisely why there is increasing recognition and acceptance that LNG as a marine fuel must play a central role in transitioning to a zero carbon industry. LNG is the only commercially viable fuel widely available today.
This process has already been started by many leaders in our Industry but must be embraced globally by the broader ship-owning community. By starting to move now to LNG we reduce carbon emissions immediately and build a strong foundation for future reductions using liquefied biomethane (LBM) and liquefied synthetic methane (LSM) as the technology required continues to mature. Underpinned by LNG’s compelling emissions and investment credentials, 2019 has seen unprecedented and remarkable uptake across many sectors of the deep sea fleet, as we anticipated this time last year. Perhaps more importantly, the infrastructure to support LNG as a marine fuel has grown significantly. It can now be delivered to vessels in some 93 ports with a further 54 ports in the process of facilitating LNG bunkering investments and operations. This begins to answer the “chicken or egg” dilemma as both new LNG-powered vessels are being ordered and major ports around the world are developing infrastructure to service this growing fleet. This process will continue and accelerate as the real benefits of LNG as a marine fuel continue to be demonstrated for forward-thinking vessel owners and operators.
ENVIRONMENT & EMISSIONS
When it comes to improving air quality and human health, LNG boasts unrivalled emissions credentials, cutting SOx and particulate emissions to negligible amounts and reducing NOx by around 85%. It is a perfect example of a ‘no brainer’. Moreover, when combined with Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) improvements to ship design, LNG is forecast to meet the IMO 2030 target for decarbonisation on new ships. The Life Cycle GHG Emission study published by thinkstep in April 2019 is widely regarded as the definitive study into GHG emissions from current marine engines i.e. those available in the market today. It is comprehensive, using the latest primary data to assess all major types of marine engines and global sources of supply. It is quality assured assessing the supply and use of LNG as a marine fuel according to ISO standards, and is objective, having been peer-reviewed by a panel of independent, academic experts in life cycle analysis and marine engine technologies. The study clearly shows that on an engine technology basis, the Tank-to-Wake emissions reduction benefits for LNG fuelled engines compared to HFO fuelled ships are between 18% to 28% for 2-stroke slow speed engines and between 12 to 22% for 4-stroke medium speed engines. The absolute Well-to-Wake emissions reduction benefits, accounting for methane emissions, for LNG-fuelled engines compared with HFO fuelled ships today are between 14% to 21% for 2-stroke slow speed engines and between 7% to 15% for 4-stroke medium speed engines. Importantly, around 70% of the marine fuel consumed today is by 2-stroke engines with a further 18% used by 4-stroke medium speed engines.
The expected developments in LBM and LSM provide LNG users a pathway to 2050 and beyond. At a molecular level LBM and LSM are identical to (fossil-fuel derived) LNG meaning that there are no blending issues and existing assets, such as LNG-fuelled ships and bunkering infrastructure will not be stranded. Therefore, LNG with growing substitution by LBM and LSM represents the most compelling decarbonisation journey, starting now, for deep sea shipping. We will shortly publish a study which analyses the current and future global availability of LBM and LSM. In summer 2019, SEA-LNG released the results of its Alternative Fuels Study, which was conducted by DNV GL. The study highlighted that while meeting the IMO carbon targets of 2050 requires the introduction of zero emission technologies, the reality is that they are simply not ready and nor will they be for the foreseeable future. Alternative fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia may have a role to play in certain maritime applications in the future. But these alternatives currently lack the regulatory framework, production capacity, acceptable safety protocols, and bunkering infrastructure for widespread adoption across deep sea shipping. Mandated global speed restrictions purported by some as the ‘silver bullet’ to achieve emissions targets is another red herring. Speed limits take no account of the consequences of this action on other parts of the highly efficient international multimodal logistics chain where shipping plays a vital role. This action could act as a disincentive for shipowners and managers to innovate and implement alternative fuels with lower GHG emissions and develop other technological efficiencies. What we can all agree on is the need to act now – doing nothing is not an acceptable solution – we cannot wait for the “magic elixir”. Indeed, in its 2050 Marine Energy Forecast, DNV GL confirms that, “In almost any scenario, LNG will be the single most important fuel in the market.”
To read the full review please click here: https://sea-lng.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/SEALNG2019review_FINAL-DIGITAL_compressed.pdf