LNG fuel proponents fire back at the World Bank

October 7, 2021 Maritime Safety News

Backers of LNG as an alternative fuel for shipping have fired back at the latest broadside from the World Bank.

Last week, Splash reported the World Bank had renewed its attack on LNG as a future fuel, sending the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) various documents highlighting the fuel’s risks including the issue of methane slip. In April this year, the bank issued an earlier report, urging authorities to stop building additional LNG bunkering infrastructure and to focus on other fuels such as green hydrogen and ammonia.

Caspar Gooren, carbon zero manager at fuel supplier Titan LNG, described the conclusions from the World Bank reports sent to the IMO as “incredibly short-sighted”, arguing that the LNG pathway to a carbon-neutral future for shipping through bioLNG and hydrogen-derived LNG is becoming increasingly clear for the wider market.

Steve Esau, general manager at lobby group SEA-LNG, took issue with the methane slips data contained in the report, claiming supply chain methane emissions account for about 6% of total well-to-wake GHG emissions associated with the use of LNG as a marine fuel. These emissions could be reduced on average by 15% by 2025 and 35% by 2030, based on actual initiatives and communicated targets from the upstream O&G sector, Esau claimed.

“The alternative is to do nothing and continue to burn highly polluting oil-based marine fuels whilst waiting for, for example, ammonia engines and fuel systems to be developed and green methanol and ammonia supply chains to be built,” Esau said.

The World Bank maintains methane leakage can occur at each stage of LNGʹs lifecycle, and represents the accidental release of a gas which is 86 times or 36 times more potent than CO2 over a 20-year or a 100-year period, respectively.

“Even small volumes of methane leakage can diminish any GHG and climate-related justifications for using LNG as a low-carbon substitute for oil-derived fuels,” the World Bank report suggested.

Marc Sima, CEO of German tech firm FUELSAVE, which has its own methane slip reduction solutions, said: “Using new methods to help the LNG burn more thoroughly or blanketing some of the LNG with cleaner and less harmful gaseous alternatives is one immediate action that shipowners should validate to tackle this problem.”

The World Bank report also predicted limited availability and lack of price competitiveness of sustainably sourced bioLNG, something SEA-LNG was keen to dismiss, citing how the European Biogas Association expects a ten-fold increase in Europe by 2030.

“BioLNG is on the cusp of scaling up when it is liquefied via the gas grid. Supply is being scaled up, reducing costs,” concurred Gooren from Titan LNG.

In terms of gross tonnage, latest data from Clarksons shows 28.8% of today’s bumper order book is for LNG fuel capable tonnage.

With the price of LNG soaring in recent weeks as much of the world grapples with power shortages, reports have emerged that many LNG dual fuel ships in operation have ditched gas for cheaper bunker fuel.

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LNG fuel proponents fire back at the World Bank