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Editorial: Apples-to-Apples Comparison

Chennai, 20 July 2022:

Conventional LNG is not the end game when it comes to solving the shipping’s decarbonisation conundrum. Quite the opposite – it is simply the starting point to unravel the riddle of achieving a zero emissions future for shipping.

The LNG critics, often guided by academics, leaning on outdated theoretical data, seem to dismiss LNG in isolation without including its current benefits, as well as its future through the introduction of bio-and hydrogen-derived LNG. This pathway is a practical and pragmatic plan to get to zero global, as well as zero local, emissions.

A lobbying group for the use of LNG as a marine fuel has called for apples-to-apples comparison of future marine fuels.SEA-LNG believes that LNG is getting a raw deal in some comparisons of future fuels as green versions of fuels like ammonia and methanol are “too often” compared with the fossil or grey version of LNG.

“All alternative fuels share a common pathway, starting at fossil-based versions and ending at low and zero-emission hydrogen-based, synthetic fuels,” said SEA-LNG. The intermediate step for fuels is the use of bio feedstocks, it said.

The journey to zero-emission versions of LNG and other fuels will rely on the expansion of electrolysis and and renewable energy capacity, said the group, a process which will take time.

The transition to green fuels will be a process of gradually blending in larger amounts of synthetic drop-ins into fuel mixes rather than any “big bang” switch, it added.While leaning on the idea that all future fuels have a similar pathway ahead from fossil-based to renewable synthetic, SEA-LNG took the opportunity to promote the advantages it sees in choosing LNG as a marine fuel.

“Committing to solutions which rely on alternative fuels that will not be available at commercial scale in a renewable form for the foreseeable future, means owners locking in higher-emission and higher-cost decarbonisation pathways. LNG as a marine fuel delivers immediate GHG benefits and a lower risk, lower cost, incremental pathway to zero emissions,” the group said.

SEA-LNG claimed that well-to-wake emissions for the grey versions of other future fuels lead to more carbon emissions than VLSFO, whereas grey LNG offers a reduction. On a well-to-wake basis, grey methanol emissions are 14% higher than VLSFO, grey ammonia 47% higher, grey hydrogen 64% higher and grey LNG up to 23% lower, it said.

SEA-LNG did not share the basis for its emissions comparisons, nor clarify whether vessel owners plan to operate vessels on grey hydrogen, methanol or ammonia before greener versions are available.

Proman Stena Bulk recently took delivery of its first ammonia-fuelled vessel and claimed CO2 emissions savings of 15% compared to heavy fuels using its current ammonia production method; those emissions savings will increase as greener ammonia comes online, including from Proman’s own CO2 recycling plants and the world-scale renewable methanol plant it has under construction, the owner claimed.

World trade must keep moving. The transition to a decarbonised future must move forward. To achieve this effectively, there is a balance that needs to be struck between the academic, hypothetical approach, and the practical, pragmatic one.

Hypothetically, we could wait for a potentially perfect answer. Pragmatically, we cannot, and urgent action is needed to start making progress today.

While we should explore a range of alternative fuels, what we must not do is rule out the LNG pathway. It represents a clear evolution from LNG, to bio-LNG, to hydrogen-derived LNG to get us to zero emissions while providing extra health benefits for the world today.

There is no risk of ‘locking into LNG’. In fact, pursuing the LNG pathway gives shipowners a clear, lolow-riskoute to a zero emissions future that started 10 years ago and is now available globally at scale. The answer to shipping’s decarbonisation conundrum starts now.

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