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Argus Media: Suppliers looking to drive bio-LNG bunkering growth

10 Feb 2023

Bio-LNG suppliers are looking to boost the availability of the fuel for bunkering over the coming years, with firms keen to lock in capacity as new environmental standards on maritime emissions kick in.

9 February 2023

The use of bio-LNG for marine bunkering purposes is still in its early days when compared with usage in the heavy-duty road sector, with the uptake of bio-LNG for vessel refuelling likely to be linked to the widespread use of biomethane in other sectors. But many firms and port authorities across Europe are planning new bio-LNG production plants or are planning to use bio-LNG as a bunkering fuel.

Finnish firm Gasum has plans to expand its bio-LNG bunkering presence in the Nordics and northern continental Europe over the next five years, maritime operations vice-president Jacob Granqvist said. The firm is looking to eventually run its Risavika 300,000 t/yr LNG production and bunkering facility in Norway solely on bio-LNG. Gasum first started producing bio-LNG in Finland in 2020, at its biogas plant in Turku. The firm’s bio-LNG expansion is conjunctive to its aim of making 4TWh of biogas available to the market by 2025 through its own production and that of certified European partners.

But bio-LNG’s higher price relative to LNG and other fuels — such as gasoil or diesel — has often been seen as a hurdle to development. This has left pricing methods for bio-LNG bunkering varied, Granqvist said. Some firms are seeking fixed pricing with premiums rather than indexation, as firms “don’t want exposure of 10-years on bio-LNG molecules”, Granqvist said. But the market is keen to “go green” as environmental targets “override price sensitivity”, he added.

And new environmental regulations kicking in over the coming years mean that there is even more of an incentive to use bio-LNG as a bunkering fuel rather than standard LNG, he said. The inclusion of maritime shipping in the EU’s emissions trading system will mean that shipowners have to pay for 40pc of their emissions from 2025, 70pc from 2026 and 100pc from 2027. But the use of LNG as a fuel in fleets will enable operators to compensate for emissions from dirtier, conventional vessels. The “compensation effect may even be higher once you start blending in bio-LNG”, Granqvist says.

“Mixing in bio-LNG makes a lot of sense”, according to Norwegian firm Kanfer Shipping’s managing director, Stig Hagen. Kanfer is in conversations with the Suez Canal authorities on the potential of introducing bio-LNG at its planned LNG bunkering project at the canal.

Ammonia’s future as a bunkering fuel less clear

The maritime sector is also looking into the use of ammonia as a fuel to cut down on emissions, but the costs are higher and availability is lacking.

Supply of ammonia must be increased before it can be widely adopted for use in different sectors, such as as a marine fuel, Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy said last month.

Granqvist is sceptical about using ammonia as a bunkering fuel, calling it a “lame excuse to avoid using LNG”. There is “big risk” in ammonia, given that production and compatibility with vessels is still far off, he adds.

But some firms are planning to skip standard LNG as a bunkering fuel completely, instead moving straight to net-zero fuels. This could boost bio-LNG and ammonia consumption in the sector. Danish shipping firm Maersk said in 2021 that it is very concerned with emissions of the greenhouse gas methane from LNG. The firm will instead leapfrog to other alternative fuels, such as biodiesel, bio-methanol, e-methanol, lignin fuels, and green ammonia.

But many firms remain keen on ammonia. Among them, Japan’s NYK aims to boost its ammonia bunkering presence and modify an LNG-powered tugboat to run on ammonia, while Japanese engineering firm IHI plans to convert LNG import terminals into fuel ammonia terminals to aid the ammonia supply chain. Kanfer reached an initial agreement with a major fertiliser firm last year for an ammonia bunkering vessel.

By Ellie Holbrook


Photo credit and source: Argus Media
Published: 10 February, 2023

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