Fathom-news asks industry experts their opinions on different maritime matters. This week, we asked ‘what is the fuel of the future?’
This depends, what is the future? The fact that shipping has transitioned to a low carbon economy so I don’t think that LNG is that future. It can get you part of the way cut it cannot get you the whole way. Everyone says it’s about the carbon factor but when you take into account the methane slip, maybe what you get with the carbon factor you’ve lost with the methane slip.
If you’re looking at a fuel for a low carbon future I would say that LNG is not the solution. It is still a fossil fuel at the end of the day and the challenge for the shipping industry is to have a step change away from fossil fuels.
When building ships now we need to find the right fuel of choice that will be suitable in 2050. This is a very difficult question to answer today.
There is a lot of talk about batteries and marine biofuels, but these are not for the short term as there’s only four options available – HFO, scrubbers, LNG, and distillate fuel. Distillates will likely be the default option. Few scrubbers are likely with around 350 ships globally that have them installed. In March 2017 there were 108 LNG ships on order and this is expected to grow by 2020. But there are not a huge number of LNG operated ships.
There will be winners and losers while shipowners and operators work out the best option for immediate effect. There are both early movers and those that just wait to see what happens. Some may wait until 2019 and then will do whatever is easiest or available.
Strategically, LNG is a solution that addresses the core issue; the fuel itself. LNG exceeds alternative options such as scrubbers, or low sulphur ‘distilate’ fuels in terms of emissions reductions. It emits zero SOx and virtually zero particulate matter.
In addition, compared to existing HFO, LNG can emit 90% less NOx and through the use of best practices and appropriate technologies to minimise methane leakage, realistic reductions of GHG by 10-20% are achievable, with a potential for up to 25% compared with conventional fossil-based fuels, including distillates and ‘scrubbed’ HFO.
As a clean, economic, and safe marine fuel with increasing global availability, LNG offers ship owners a real opportunity to improve the environmental performance of the industry.