Friday, January 31, 2020

New Study Claims That LNG Vessels Can Be MORE Harmful to the Environment

But Everyone Acknowledges Gas Powered Ships Are Cleaner - Or Do They?
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – Everyone associated with the trade knows that international shipping is trying to clean up its environmental act. Bandying about the facts such as 90% of the world's goods are moved by sea whilst only generating 3 or 4% of greenhouse gases will still not stop the need to cut emissions to the bone.

A Working Paper from the not for profit International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) has been published this month which claims that most of the vessels currently fitted, or being built, with the most common type of liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuelled engine, emit up to 82% more life-cycle greenhouse gases (GHG) than marine gas oil (MGO).

The study compares the life-cycle GHG emissions of LNG, MGO, very low sulphur fuel oil, and heavy fuel oil over both 100 year and 20 year periods and considers all the relevant factors including upstream emissions, combustion emissions, and unburned methane (methane slip), and the results are not encouraging.

What will be most important to those ordering new build vessels will be the claim that the maximum life-cycle GHG benefit of LNG is a 15% reduction compared with MGO, and this is only if ships use a high-pressure injection dual fuel (HPDF) engines and upstream methane emissions are well-controlled. That fact concerns the global warming effect over a full century.

Cutting emissions more quickly than this is of course the goal and the results over 20 years are, to say the least, disappointing. No climate benefit whatsoever from using LNG, regardless of the engine technology. In this time frame HPDF engines using LNG will emit 4% more life-cycle GHG emissions than if they used MGO.

The most popular LNG engine technology is low-pressure dual fuel, four-stroke, medium-speed, which is used on at least 300 vessels (especially popular with LNG fuelled cruise ships). Results show this technology emits 70% more life-cycle GHGs when using LNG instead of MGO and that aforementioned 82% more than using MGO in a comparable medium-speed diesel (MSD) engine.

With a multitude of operators touting their switch to LNG as a positive move to save the planet, this report will give ammunition to ecological groups and will need to be addressed by the shipping industry. The sobering conclusion drawn by the report is that the use of LNG might actually result in more harmful effects that other more conventional fuels.

Doubtless this is a study which will be pored over by the members of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) before its meeting to be held in London between March 31 and April 3 where the GHG strategy will finally top the agenda.