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Argus Media: Low carbon marine fuels needed well before 2050

12 Oct 2020

Sammy Six of global energy and commodity price reporting agency Argus Media on Thursday (8 October) published a summary of a panel discussion regarding the adoption of alternative low-carbon bunker fuels held on the last day at the Singapore International Bunkering Conference (Sibcon).

The global marine industry will face pressure to come up with low-carbon fuels much earlier than 2050, a panel concluded during the last day of the Singapore International Bunkering Conference (Sibcon). 

“Given that newbuild vessels have a lifespan of about 40 years, 2050 is much closer than we might think,” one participant said. This was echoed by another participant, who said: “Low-carbon fuel technology will need to mature by the end of this decade, as we are only one generation of vessels away from 2050.” Sibcon is being held online and under Chatham House rules, which prohibit media from quoting participants.

The International Maritime Organisation has adopted a target for the shipping industry to lower its carbon emissions by at least 50% from 2008 levels by 2050. 

Shipping is the least greenhouse gas-producing form of mass cargo transportation but it is a difficult sector to decarbonise, requiring significant capital investments.

The panel agreed that it is still too early to say which alternative fuel will likely win the race, as there are different pathways to achieve decarbonisation. Among the possible solutions are LNG, biofuels, hydrogen, methanol and ammonia. For a fuel to be considered as a marine fuel, it needs to be cost-effective, widely available, scalable and have a high energy density.

Alternative fuels all have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. LNG is the most advanced in terms of availability and cost, yet global infrastructure remains limited and it is seen mostly as a transition fuel, given its carbon emissions are only 20-25% less than diesel.

Biofuels have become more cost-efficient and are now easier to produce at scale, but it remains uncertain whether the next generations can be produced sustainably.

Hydrogen is energy dense and a mature technology, which can be produced from renewable sources, but it suffers from storage space concerns onboard a ship.

Methanol is among the top five traded commodities globally and widely available, but its supply is not guaranteed as it competes heavily in other industries such as aviation.

Ammonia can be stored at ambient temperatures as a liquid, but its energy density is low and concerns have been voiced over its toxicity issues. 

Participants also agreed that a carbon tax on conventional bunker fuels will be necessary for alternative fuels to become cost-competitive in the short to medium term.

Photo credit and Source:
Argus Media
Published: 12 October, 2020


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