lng © Oleksandr Kalinichenko
© Oleksandr Kalinichenko

LNG is the most environmentally friendly, readily available fuel for shipping today – and in the foreseeable future, according to a new study.

With the IMO’s 0.5% sulphur cap regulations coming into force next January, along with its target of halving C02 emissions from shipping by 2050, decisions need to be taken on alternative fuels.

At today’s launch in London of an independent study, commissioned by the not-for-profit collaborative industry foundation SEA/LNG, its chairman, Peter Keller, said the study aimed to prove the efficiency of LNG at this “challenging time for shipowners, operators and regulators”.

Mr Keller, also executive vice president of US flag line Tote, the first to operate LNG-fuelled containerships, said there had been “a significant amount of investment in LNG bunkering capabilities around the world”, a lack of which had in the past deterred most carriers from ordering LNG-fuelled vessels.

CMA CGM is the first, and so far only, global carrier to opt for LNG-fuelled ULCVS, with its order last year for nine 22,000 teu ships to be delivered next year.

Mr Keller conceded it was not viable to retrofit ships to run on LNG.

“Conversions are difficult,” he said, given the size of the tanks required and the complexity of the work.

Indeed, Hapag-Lloyd’s chairman, Rolf Habben Jansen, told The Loadstar recently that a ballpark figure for retrofitting one of its 17 so-called LNG-ready ULCVs, inherited from its merger with UASC, was $25m – at least four times the cost of installing a scrubber system.

He said only one of the 15,000 teu ships was being retrofitted to run on LNG, as a trial, and he did not expect this to be rolled out to the sister vessels.

The Well-to-Wake study (a well-established approach for assessing the life-cycle analysis of fuels used in ships) was undertaken by consultant thinkstep. Using testing and data in cooperation with engine manufacturers,it found that the use of LNG as a marine fuel showed GHG reductions of up to 21%, compared with current oil-based fuels for two-stroke slow-speed engines. These account for about 70% of the power units used in shipping.

Mr Keller admitted that LNG was not a final answer to cutting emissions from shipping, but “it is the only alternative fuel that is available now”.

Maersk said recently it had invested some $1bn in research and development on alternative fuels, which it said was being driven by its customers, the carrier having seen a 30% increase in tenders stipulating the use of sustainable fuel. Other options being researched include bio-diesel and ammonia (hydrogen), solar and wind power.

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