Reversing the trend with Bio-LNG
Maritime transport carries 80 % of the world’s goods. However, vessels release emissions that are dangerous for the environment and human health (SOx and Nox) and contribute significantly to global warming (CO2). In the EU, maritime transport was responsible for over 138 million tonnes of CO2 emissions in 2018. This represents 3.7 % of total EU emissions. With the shipping sector projected to grow further, the level of GHG emissions could even double by 2050. A major transformation of the sector is needed to reverse this trend.
Reversing the emissions trend in shipping
Shipping is not explicitly mentioned in the Paris Agreement, but there have been some efforts to make shipping cleaner in the last years. On the EU front, the European Commission will launch a legislative proposal on maritime fuels in the first quarter of 2021 (FuelEU Maritime). This initiative aims to increase the use of sustainable alternative fuels in European shipping and ports. Seeking to stimulate the commitment from the industry to decarbonise maritime transport, the EU intends to include CO2 emissions from the sector in the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).
Less than 1 % of the world fleet runs on alternative fuels today. However, the decarbonisation of the shipping industry will require the use of zero or low carbon fuels. One of the options for the fast decarbonization of the sector is to use liquefied biomethane, produced from organic residues and resulting from the purification of biogas. This renewable fuel is readily available for use at scale and with infrastructure in place. There is enough sustainable feedstock available to ensure the future growth of BioLNG production, both in Europe and worldwide.
BioLNG can benefit from the existing LNG infrastructure, unlike other renewable alternatives, such as hydrogen or ammonia. As of 2020, there were 53 European ports where LNG bunkering is available (EU and UK) and 37 European ports where LNG bunkering facilities are under development. There are currently 173 LNG-fuelled vessels in operation with approximately 230 on order and a further 150 LNG-ready ships (vessels which have been designed for retrofit to LNG) either in operation or on order. Compared to fossil LNG, BioLNG can reduce emissions by up to about 92% in the combustion cycle and has the potential for negative emissions.
Vessels covering long routes must carry on board a source of energy that must not excessively limit the available cargo space. This can be a potential barrier for the use of batteries, which would need to reach a significant size to cover the energy consumption of a large vessel.
The full acknowledgement of the benefits of BioLNG in maritime transport will support the further deployment of this renewable fuel in the coming years, which can significantly reduce local pollutant emissions and global warming. Recognizing the strategic role of LNG infrastructure in the maritime transport as enabler for the integration of higher shares of BioLNG will be also crucial for the fast decarbonization of the shipping sector in line with EU and global targets.