Earlier this year the World Bank published a report that dismissed LNG as a marine fuel. Now Netherlands based ship design and engineering specialist Conoship has joined those rejecting that view saying there is a bright future for LNG in the decarbonisation of the shipping industry.
Accordig to Conoship, the World Bank report seemed to have missed an important recent technical development: Marine Carbon Capture Systems. Recently, great progress has been achieved regarding the capturing of CO2 from the exhaust of LNG-fuelled ships.
Among others, R&D in the Netherlands – by Conoship, TNO Delft and other partners – leads to feasible and practical ship-based solutions, utilising ‘the cold’ of the LNG (-160 dgr. C) to liquefy the CO2 and store it in regular liquid-CO2-tankcontainers on board. The captured CO2 can be unloaded while bunkering LNG, to be stored for example offshore in empty gas fields, for which infrastructure is under development in Norway (Northern Lights), Rotterdam (Porthos), Amsterdam (Athos) and by parties like CarbonCollectors.
As the captured and liquefied CO2 can be ‘food-grade’, wider utilisation is foreseen in the future as an important and valuable feedstock for the production of synthetic fuels, such as synthetic-kerosine, -diesel, -methanol or -methane. Next to ‘green hydrogen’, the production of synthetic fuels requires vast amounts of CO2, for which ‘direct air capture’ is a very inefficient source.
The same ships that actually are fuelled by LNG (= abt. 85% Methane CH4), can be fuelled in the future by Liquified Synthetic-Methane (LSM, 100% CH4), using the same existing LNG-infrastructure. A closed carbon-loop can be realised by capturing the CO2 after the combustion of LSM in the ship, liquefying it and providing it as feedstock to the producer of the Liquified Synthetic Methane.
Conoship R&D and design studies show that by future application of onboard CO2-capturing, liquefaction and storage, LNG-driven ships can be both:
a good direct economic and ecological alternative to diesel-driven ships, realizing large reductions of SOx, NOx en PM/Sooth and smaller reductions of CO2;
a good future-proof economic and ecological solution, increasing the reduction of CO2-emissions (possibly stepwise) to the desired economical & ecological level by application of a CO2-capturing installation.
Conoship says that by integrating the CO2-capturing installation in the initial ship design it reduces the future impact of the modification. However, CCS installations are also suitable for retrofits on board of LNG powered vessels.
Further, R&D on handling the challenge of methane slip is making good progress, both in combustion technology in engines and in after-treatment technology and there is no reason why application of the solutions should be limited to a fraction of the fleet. Furthermore, despite all developments, the quantity of “green hydrogen”, either to be used directly as fuel, or as feedstock for e-fuels, will remain limited. It would make sense to use this scarce quantity for applications for which there are no alternatives, such as in long range aviation.
Conoship believes that introduction, through IMO, of a CO2-levy per ton emitted CO2 will facilitate the economical application of CO2-capturing installations on LNG-driven vessels in the coming years. All in all LNG, when combined with CCS, should therefore still be considered as a more than valuable transition fuel up to 2050, reducing the carbon footprint of shipping and its customers with more than 75% compared to today’s diesel powered operations.