Hide-and-seek with carbon: gas vs alternatives
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) earlier considered as the optimal alternative to meet the environmental standards for marine fuels is now viewed only as a transition solution. The length of LNG term and other fuels to replace it were in the focus of the 5th LNG Fleet, LNG Bunkering and Alternatives conference organized by IAA PortNews.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) meets all the contemporary requirements imposed on a marine fuel by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
As Sovcomflot President & CEO Igor Tonkovidov forecasted at the conference with reference to MSI and DNV studies, the demand for LNG as a marine fuel will continue growing until 2035-2040, then it will stabilize and remain almost flat till at least 2050 while the consumption of low-carbon fuel will grow and the consumption of oil products will decrease. Therefore, Sovcomflot, one of the largest tanker companies worldwide, stakes on LNG as the key fuel for its new ships. The fleet of Sovcomflot currently numbers six Aframax tankers powered by LNG with five more ‘Green Funnel’ tankers under construction (to be delivered in 2022-2023). According to Sovcomflot, from the beginning of 2021 the company has reduced CO2 emissions from its ‘Green Funnel’ tankers by 18.5% compared to emissions from conventional tankers.
“The demand for LNG as a marine fuel will continue growing until 2035-2040”
SCF CEO emphasized that in the mid-term, liquefied natural gas (LNG) is going to remain an optimal type of fuel complying with the requirements of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). In his opinion, ammonia, hydrogen and methanol will be able to compete with LNG in the horizon of four to eight years.
Today’s statistics of new shipbuilding orders confirms the status of LNG as the optimal alternative fuel. Between 2019 and 2021, the share of newbuildings powered by LNG rose 2.2 times – from 2.73% to 6.1%.
“LNG is the cleanest fuel available today, - commented Natalya Zubenko, representative of GTT. – Ammonia will not reach its goal before 2040 due to the lack of ‘green’ hydrogen”. According to the speaker, engines running on ammonia will not be available before the end of 2020s.
Nevertheless, some shipping companies including Maersk have already announced their intention to skip the phase of LNG and enter the zero-carbon future at once. Yet, a closer look at the situation shows it is questionable. Although Maersk refers to methanol as a more environmentally friendly fuel it is not obvious for experts.
Aleksandr Yegorov, General Director of Marine Engineering Bureau, who is engaged in consideration of using methanol on sea/river going ships, IMO does not take into account CO2 emissions in the course of fuel production. “If methanol production is based on gas synthesis as the most available technology, CO2 emissions are quite high”, said the speaker referring to the research DNV GL. In case of ‘green’ methanol, CO2 emissions during the production process are much lower but still comparable to those caused by production of ‘non-green’ LNG. Meanwhile, there is no statistics on CO2 emissions from using ‘green’ methanol yet.
Despite its unquestionable advantages such as low toxicity in water, low cost and low carbon footprint in case of ‘green’ production, methanol still has some considerable disadvantages. Its heating value is lower than that of LNG. Therefore, larger volumes of it are needed, hence the decrease of ship cargo capacity. Just like LNG, methanol needs explosion protection. Besides, it is a strong poison. “Moreover, methanol features high evaporativity and it can cause vapour locks in fuel supply systems, decreases lubrication of pump elements and, obviously, increases corrosive activity, thus resulting in exclusion of some materials and metals from the manufacture of engines”, - said Aleksandr Yegorov.
In fact, today there are only low-speed dual-fuel engines running on methanol and they use diesel fuel for ignition (20% of the total volume). Meanwhile, the leading manufacturers speak about a possibility to produce medium-speed engines in case of fixed contracts.
When speaking about the trends, the head of the engineering bureau emphasized that “the manufacturers are currently focused on hydrogen and ammonia”.
“The manufacturers are currently focused on hydrogen and ammonia”
According to Igor Tonkovidov, ‘bio’ LNG can ensure a more considerable reduction of CO2 emissions as compared with ‘green’ methanol especially if we speak about the only type of methanol engines, the ones using diesel fuel for ignition.
IMO is currently considering some proposals on carbon regulations. According to Sovcomflot CEO, the most balanced of them is the one initiated by the International Chamber of Shipping on establishment of a fund to finance the research on zero carbon marine fuel and usage of low carbon marine fuel.
“Introduction of alternative fuel technologies will mean additional capital expenses for ship owners and, consequently, entail the growth of transportation costs”, said Igor Tonkovidov.
While low carbon fuel is being discussed, LNG is getting increasingly popular and the infrastructure of LNG bunkering is developing. Not so long ago, LNG bunkering vessel LNG6000 Optimus built by DAMEN started operations in the Gulf of Finland. As Damen Sales Manager Marc Tijssen told at the conference, the Liquified Gas Carrier (LGC) took an LNG cargo in the Port of Vysotsk and headed to Tallinn, Estonia. The vessel was built at DAMEN Shipyards Yichang (China), then outfitted and tested in DAMEN Verolme Rotterdam (the Netherlands). The 100-metre vessel will carry up to 6,000m³ of LNG in two type-C tanks. The ship was built to the class of Bureau Veritas.
Besides, Gazprom Neft built the first Russian LNG bunkering vessel “Dmitry Mendeleev” for operation in the Gulf of Finland. Apart from the existing terminal in the port of Vysotsk, LNG bunkering ships can be soon loaded at KS Portovaya which is to be put into operation in the near time.
Vasily Strugov, Deputy General Director of Rosmorport, told the conference participants about the completion of the Ro-Ro ferry of Project CNF19M "Marshal Rokossovsky" and its delivery to FSUE Rosmorport. According to the speaker, when refueled with liquefied gas the ship will set sail to Baltiysk. Speaking about the construction of the second ferry of this project, the General Chernyakhovsky, Vasily Strugov noted that it is proceeding in accordance with the terms approved in the Accessibility Plan for the Kaliningrad Region. The ferry delivery is scheduled for the third quarter of 2022.
The CNF19M ferry will carry trains, automobiles and cargoes by the Baltic Sea between the Leningrad Region and the Kaliningrad Region. The new ferry’s dual-fuel system can be powered low-sulphur diesel fuel and by liquefied natural gas (LNG).
According to Deputy Transport Minister Aleksandr Poshivai, the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation will look into providing discounts on port charges collected in the Far East Basin from ships using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel. As of today, a discount for LNG ships is offered at the port of Primorsk and the Ministry is ready to consider the issue upon a justified request from the business.
The speaker also underlined, there is no need to develop special regulations for LNG bunkering today as the procedure is regulated by the available package of rules. “The request for development of standards to regulate LNG bunkering will not be taken up”, he said. Meanwhile, Aleksandr Poshivai emphasized the specific approach to emergency situations that may arise when using LNG since they do not cause spills like oil products but can cause emissions.
Apart from LNG, methanol, hydrogen and ammonia certain prospects, although limited ones, are associated with application of electric accumulators. DAMEN has recently completed its electric tug project.
DAMEN is going to deliver the electric tug to its customer in New Zealand in the end of 2021. It will take just two hours for the tug to recharge to its full capacity. The ship is also fitted with two diesel generators that can be used for covering long distances and for powering of the firefighting system as well as for recharging of batteries when in hybrid regime. The launching of the second electric tug is scheduled for January 2022. According to Damen, such tugs feature 30-pct less operation expenses although their construction cost is higher.
An important aspect of LNG shipping development is training of skillful personnel for operation on ships powered by this type of fuel. When speaking at the conference, Sergey Aysinov, Director of the Professional Development Programmes Institute of Admiral Makarov SUMIS, announced a number of proposals on development of human resources to ensure compliance with the International Code of Safety for Ship Using Gases or Other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code). Sergey Aysinov emphasized the necessity of advanced training to ensure IGF Code compliance. In his opinion, it is reasonable to join hands with various organizations which have an IGF Code competence – USC companies, engineering organizations, owners of LNG technologies, ship owners and educational institutions.
“ IMO regulations do not take into consideration GHG emissions in the course of fuel production”
As a summary, we emphasize that IMO regulations do not take into consideration GHG emissions in the course of fuel production. Even DNV study which does take this into consideration does not account the carbon footprint of manufacture, delivery and installation of equipment needed to produce ‘green energy’, such as electrolysis unit, wind generator, solar batteries, etc. Meanwhile, it is know that large-scale involvement of wind generators high-speed a negative impact on the climate as raises nighttime surface temperature. Therefore, the struggle for the environment should be based on a comprehensive approach without over-focusing on certain industries like the shipping industry. It is important to take into consideration the combination of factors. Not only the reduction of carbon footprint of economic activities should be in the spotlight. Absorption of CO2 should also be in focus as RF President Vladimir Putin said in late October 2021 at G20 Summit session.
“I would also like to underscore that, in our opinion, it is not enough to simply reduce emissions to solve the global warming problem. It is equally important to increase the absorption of greenhouse gases, and here Russia, as well as in a number of other countries, has tremendous potential in terms of the absorbing potential of its forests, the tundra, agricultural lands, seas and swamps”, said the President of Russia.
However, it would be great to hear a louder voice of Russia in IMO and in other international organizations engaged in environmental regulations.
By Vitaly Chernov