In the decades to come, bio-LNG, when used as a drop-in fuel with fossil LNG, can meet a sizable portion of shipping’s energy needs while cutting GHG emissions as reported by Riviera.
According to a recent study, bio LNG might greatly speed up the decarbonization of shipping if it were used as a drop-in fuel and combined with its fossil-based cousin in 2030 and 2050.
The findings in the study, “The role of bioLNG in shipping industry decarbonisation”, which are based on using bio LNG in a 20% blend with LNG, suggest one potential pathway to decarbonisation for shipowners. The project, which is being carried out by Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University’s Maritime Energy and Sustainable Development Centre of Excellence (MESD CoE), investigates the availability of bioLNG as a maritime fuel that is created from sustainable biomass resources. The analysis considers the need for biomass from industries like the manufacture of wood and paper, the production of heat and power, aviation, and heavy-duty road traffic.
According to Steve Esau, chief operating officer of SEA-LNG, the company that commissioned the study, bio LNG, also known as liquefied biomethane or LBM, will be among the least expensive sustainable alternative marine fuels.
Increasing GHG reductions
Since international standards for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are becoming increasingly strict, it is essential that alternative fuels like bio LNG be readily available. Since GHG emissions are cumulative, Mr Esau notes that inactivity now creates difficulties for tomorrow and makes it harder to meet climate commitments.
It will be up to a variety of low- and net-zero carbon fuels to be affordable and accessible in order to meet the maritime industry’s decarbonization challenge. However, he claims that switching shipping overnight from fossil to renewable fuels with no emissions is unlikely to happen in a “big bang” process and is more likely to happen gradually as these new fuels become widely available in the market.
The study assesses if using bio LNG is a reliable approach toward achieving shipping’s GHG emission reduction goals.
Fuel availability and cost
Bio-LNG is already commercially accessible as a drop-in bunker fuel in the maritime industry and is widely utilised as a net-zero fuel for heavy-duty vehicles inside the EU. With 78 bio LNG facilities expected to be operational in the EU over the next two years, investment in the production of bio LNG is increasing. Overall, it is anticipated that the production of bio LNG will increase tenfold by 2030. Recent announcements from Titan, Wärtsilä, and Ecospray demonstrate how producers are responding to shipping demand.
The challenges with alternative fuels are their price and accessibility. According to the paper, average bio LNG delivery prices will decrease by 30% by 2050 compared to today’s levels, mostly due to lower biomethane production costs in large-scale anaerobic digestion plants. In comparison to biomethanol and electro-fuels like e-ammonia and e-methanol, bio LNG is now one of the least expensive low-carbon alternative maritime fuels, according to Mr Esau.
Cutting emissions, and eliminating slip
As it recycles waste from households, businesses, and farms to produce green fuel, bio-LNG is a tried-and-true route to carbon neutrality. By absorbing this trash and converting it into clean, carbon-free energy, bio LNG production can prevent and trap methane emissions that would otherwise be discharged into the atmosphere. This is an illustration of a circular economy. The generation of bio-LNG is regarded as one of the most developed alternative fuel production technologies.
If methane leakage in the manufacturing process and onboard methane slip are minimised, bio LNG can often reduce GHG emissions by up to 80% compared to marine diesel. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas with a GWP that is 28–34 times greater than CO2 in a 20-year time period, making mitigation of such releases essential. If prevented emissions are taken into account, bio-LNG made from anaerobic digestion of manure can reach negative emissions that range from minus 121% to 188% when compared to marine diesel fuel.
The majority of the order book for newbuilds powered by LNG is made up of these new engines, which are being developed to solve methane slip. Engine designers are working on clear technological pathways to eradicating methane slip by 2030 for those technologies where it is still a problem.
Using existing infrastructure
The study also looked at the advantages of the current LNG infrastructure and how it affects the cost of logistics. Bio LNG may be delivered through Europe’s existing gas infrastructure without the requirement for significant new investments because it is pure, liquefied methane that cannot be distinguished from natural gas. Bio LNG may be transported, stored, and bunkered in ports using the existing LNG infrastructure and can be used as a drop-in fuel in engines that now run on LNG.
The study also emphasises how the adoption of bioLNG in shipping will depend on how widely biomethane is used in other industries.
To achieve this, explicit Guarantees of Origin must be established, together with national and international norms for the injection of biomethane into gas infrastructures. By fostering wider, more liquid markets and reducing costs, using the current global gas networks to enable various sites for production and consumption would maximise the potential of biomethane and bio LNG.
A decarbonisation pathway
It is crucial to consider every pathway, not just the final destination when evaluating decarbonization alternatives for the maritime sector. Regulation must be objective-driven, technology-neutral, and based on assessments of fuels over their entire lifecycles, from well to wake.
The study’s results, according to Mr Esau, offer trustworthy, unbiased evidence on both availability and cost, demonstrating that bio LNG is a reliable substitute fuel for the decarbonization of the shipping sector and can be crucial in achieving GHG emission reduction targets for the maritime sector.
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