LNG Fuels Could Be the Way Forward For the Shipping Industry
LNG fuels have been on the forefront of alternatives for the shipping industry for quite some time now, but the latest developments with the IMO decision to limit sulphur content of marine fuels by 2020 are putting things into “fast forward” mode. In its latest weekly report, shipbroker Intermodal noted that “from January 2020, global sulphur content of marine fuels will be condensed from the current maximum of 3.5% to just 0.5%. This decision is designed to radically reduce emissions produced by vessels using marine diesel and fuel oil and principally the levels of Sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matters (PM). The shift will impose major costs for the shipping industry in search for efficient solutions. As of 2015 vessels in the SECAs areas comprising of the Baltic Sea, North Sea, North American ECA, most of the US and Canadian coast and the US Caribbean ECA, are compelled to use marine fuels with only 0.1% Sulphur content”.
Intermodal’s Katerina Restis, from the Tanker Chartering department noted that “nowadays, natural gas in most nations is a significant power source for residential, commercial & industrial sectors’ energy needs. Several arguments indicate that LNG utilization as transportation fuel and in particular its shipping implementation may provide a future-fit solution as it has nearly no Sulphur content (0.004%). Even though LNG requires more tank space (volumetric) compared to other transportation fuels to generate equivalent energy, is of lower cost and environmentally friendly”.
Ms Restis added that “furthermore, it emits zero SOx and with the use of appropriate technology almost 90% fewer NOx. Furthermore, it is a global commodity widely available, with more than 20 countries exporting to 35 importing countries. Market penetration is increasing in areas such as Middle East, Africa, Latin America and South-East Asia. The market is currently heading into oversupply with estimates of approximately 150 million tons per annum of new export capacity due to come on line between 2015-2020, representing 50% increase over current capacity”.
According to Intermodal’s analyst, “lately, an increasing number of bunkering facilities is being built, while current developed infrastructure is concentrated in North West Europe like Rotterdam, Stockholm as well as the USG. Moreover, Asian ports that serve deep-sea routes are in the process of developing LNG bunkering facilities as evidenced by the world’s busiest bunker port, Singapore. The use of LNG for marine propulsion has been used for decades in the LNG carrier industry however the first LNG fueled vessel with gas engines and storage was the ferry “Glutra” and came into service in 2000 in Norway. Currently there are 97 LNG fueled vessels mainly operating in the ECAs areas of N.W. Europe and North America. Increase incentive in demand is evident from the 91 orders already placed by the end of 2016 for LNG-fueled ships”.
Additionally, “the new Gas4Sea partnership has taken delivery of the world’s first purpose-built LNG bunkering vessel from Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction in South Korea. An increasing number of companies is looking for environmentally friendly supply chains in response to policies imposed. VW Group for example stated that from 2019 they will use two LNG-powered charter vessels for the transport of vehicles. Uncertainty of global economic activity affecting shipping activity, fuel prices, environmental regulations, know-how and machine technology, costs of infrastructures and LNG availability are the key elements underlying demand that necessitates further research as the global economic outlook remains unclear. The use of alternative fuels is essential for breaking the oil dependence, improving competitiveness and reducing greenhouse gas and pollutant emissions and we expect the shipping industry to slowly but steadily move towards that going forward”, Restis concluded.
Nikos Roussanoglou, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide