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ICCT analysis points to ‘damning climate indictment of LNG as marine fuel’, says Stand.earth

29 Jan 2020

The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), an environmental non-profit organisation, on Tuesday (28 January) published a report on the climate implication of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel.

“LNG emits approximately 25% less carbon dioxide (CO2) than conventional marine fuels in providing the same amount of propulsion power. However, LNG is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) that traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than the same amount of CO2 over a 20-year time period,” said authors of the report. 

The group used a representative life-cycle emission factor as well as the 100-year and 20-year global warming potentials (GWPs) in the report. 

The 20-year GWP better reflects the need to reduce GHGs quickly, in order to meet the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) climate goals, and the results show that when combined with a trend toward higher leakage, there is no climate benefit from using LNG, regardless of the engine technology.

“This groundbreaking new analysis is a damning climate indictment of LNG as marine fuel. For a sector that is already one of the largest contributors of global greenhouse gas emissions, this report reveals that switching ships to LNG is worse than doing nothing,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner at Stand.earth Senior Shipping Campaigner Kendra Ulrich.

Kendra Ulrich stated that this should serve as an alarming wake-up call for the International Maritime Organization, which must act now to ensure it includes all greenhouse gas emissions in its emissions reduction strategy.

Additionally, as illustrated in the figure above, the most popular LNG marine engine—low-pressure dual fuel (LPDF), medium-speed, four-stroke—is also the leakiest. Using LNG, this technology emitted 70% to 82% more life-cycle GHGs than marine gas oil (MGO). To understand the figure above:

This study compares the life-cycle GHG emissions from LNG, including upstream emissions from leakage during extraction, processing, and transport and downstream emissions from combustion and unburned methane, to those of heavy fuel oil, very low sulfur fuel oil, and marine gas oil (MGO). 

The authors commented that investments should instead be focused on technologies that reduce total life-cycle GHG emissions, including energy-saving technologies, wind-assisted propulsion, zero-emission fuels, batteries, and fuel cells. 

“The report shows the need for adopting policies that can reduce the broader GHG emissions of shipping instead of CO2 only, including the well-to-tank emissions of ship fuels,” said Dr. Elizabeth Lindstad, Chief Scientist at SINTEF Ocean, Maritime Transport.

“If we fail to include all GHGs and focus only on CO2, we might end up with a large number of ships fulfilling all efficiency requirements, but where the GHG savings are on paper only.”

The working paper by ICCT can be downloaded here.


Photo credit: International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT)
Published: 29 January, 2020

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