New NGO report slams LNG as marine fuel

Malcolm Latarche
Malcolm Latarche
ShipInsight

25 October 2018


While the IMO is currently considering the harmful impacts of marine fuel use at MEPC 73, a new report by the environmentalist NGO Transport & Environment (T&E), has strongly criticised the use of LNG as a fuel in all transport modes including shipping.

According to the report, using natural gas for transport is as bad for the climate as using petrol, diesel or conventional marine fuels. Burning gas in cars also emits as much air pollution as petrol and the limited advantage over compliant diesel cars could be eliminated by planned new standards, the research shows. T&E said lawmakers must accept that fossil gas cannot help clean up transport and should start taxing it at the same rate as diesel and petrol.

When taking into account the effects of leakage of methane – a very potent greenhouse gas – fossil gas could increase GHG emissions by up to 9% or decrease them by a maximum of 12% across all transport modes, the report said. In shipping, the impact of LNG is close to that of marine gas oil, but these figures are highly dependent on engine methane slip and upstream leakage.

For ships, LNG has a clear benefit compared to heavy fuel oil although NOx after-treatment systems and further desulphurisation of existing marine fuels can achieve similar results. T&E said the car, truck and shipping industries should use the shift to low-carbon technology to also move to low air pollution technology.

Jori Sihvonen, clean fuels officer at T&E, said: “Gas cars, trucks and ships have no benefits for the climate and they’re a distraction from our real objective, zero-emission transport. Governments should resist the gas lobby’s offensive and stop wasting precious public money on gas infrastructure and tax breaks for fossil gas.”

On the question of renewable biomethane fuels the T&E report was also damning saying governments pinning their hopes for decarbonisation on biomethane from waste must recognise that it could only supply, at maximum, 9.5% of transport’s needs. This would also mean no biomethane would be left to decarbonise the other sectors already using gas – residential, heating and power – where the infrastructure already exists. Renewable gas based on electricity (power-to-gas) is very energy intensive and costly to produce, the report finds.

“The idea that we can decarbonise transport with renewable gas is a pipedream. What little biomethane and electro-methane we’ll have will be needed to decarbonise the heating and power sectors, which currently rely on fossil gas. Pushing biomethane in transport actually makes the climate battle harder by depriving industry and domestic heating of this limited renewable resource,” Sihvonen said.