LNG as a shipping fuel ‘may have no real-world climate benefits’

A new analysis from the International Council on Clean Transportation suggests leakage and incomplete combustion may make LNG’s actual climate footprint higher than heavy fuel oil, very low sulfur fuel oil and marine gas oil

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Using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a shipping fuel may have no real-world climate benefits over using heavy fuel oil, very low sulfur fuel oil and marine gas oil.

That’s the suggestion made in a new analysis from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), which suggests LNG’s total lifecycle emissions, including leakage and incomplete combustion, can actually be higher than the other fuels, which are often seen as ‘dirtier’.

Theoretically, LNG emits approximately 25% less carbon dioxide than conventional marine fuels while providing the same amount of propulsion power – however, it is mostly made up of methane, a greenhouse gas that is much more potent than carbon dioxide.

The researchers say this, combined with the fact LNG is more likely to leak than the other fuels, means it offers no climate benefit regardless of the engine technology.

They also note the most popular LNG marine engine, a low-pressure, dual-fuel, medium-speed, four-stroke, is also the leakiest, emitting up to 82% more emissions over its lifetime than marine gas oil.

The study suggests investments should instead focus on technologies such as energy-saving technologies, wind propulsion, zero-emission fuels, batteries and fuel cells.