A new study commissioned by SEA-LNG has found that liquified biomethane (bioLNG) can make a major contribution to maritime decarbonization. BioLNG can meet a significant proportion of future shipping demand and will be among the cheapest sustainable alternative marine fuels.
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Conducted by the Maritime Energy and Sustainable Development Centre of Excellence (MESD CoE) at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), the study “Role of bio-LNG in shipping industry decarbonisation” explored questions around fuel availability, cost, lifecycle emissions, and logistics, providing an overview of the applicability of bioLNG as a marine fuel.
It also investigated “the feasibility of LNG and bioLNG as a realistic pathway” for the shipping industry to achieve greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets in a sustainable manner.
Our research concludes that bioLNG, produced from sustainable biomass resources, has the potential to meet a significant proportion of future shipping energy demand. The findings show that bioLNG is among the cheapest sustainable biofuels and can potentially offer a significant cost advantage over electro-fuels by 2050, said Associate Professor Jasmine Lam, Centre Director, MESD CoE, NTU Singapore.
BioLNG can be blended with fossil LNG in relatively small amounts to reach the 2030 International Maritime Organization (IMO) targets and the biofuel proportion in the mix can be increased to meet 2050 targets.
The findings suggest that pure bioLNG could cover up to 3 percent of the total energy demand for shipping fuels in 2030 and 13 percent in 2050.
If it is considered as a drop-in fuel blended with fossil LNG, bioLNG could cover up to 16 percent and 63 percent of the total energy demand in 2030 and 2050, respectively, assuming a 20 percent blending ratio.
BioLNG can provide up to 80 percent greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared to marine diesel if methane leakage in the production process and onboard methane slip are minimized. It can be used as a drop-in fuel in existing LNG-fuelled engines and can also be transported, stored, and bunkered in ports using the existing LNG infrastructure. This reduces logistics costs considerably compared with other alternative fuels, said Bruno Piga, Research Consultant for MESD CoE, NTU Singapore.
In the long term, shipowners who have invested in the LNG pathway will need to shift to renewable synthetic LNG (eLNG).
The report also forecasts that the average cost for delivered bioLNG will fall by 30 percent by 2050 compared to today’s values, mainly driven by the reduced cost of producing biomethane (aka renewable natural gas – RNG) in large-scale anaerobic digestion (AD) plants.
This makes bioLNG one of the cheapest sustainable alternative marine fuels, compared to biomethanol and electro-fuels, including e-ammonia and e-methanol.
The decarbonization of shipping will require the use of multiple low and zero-carbon fuels. Every fuel has its own individual, but a similar pathway to net zero. When assessing decarbonization options for the maritime sector it is essential that each pathway is properly evaluated, not simply the destination. It is crucial that decision-making is guided by accurate information that assesses each alternative fuel pathway on a like-for-like and full life-cycle basis (Well-to-Wake), said Peter Keller, Chairman of SEA-LNG.
Furthermore, the report highlights that the uptake of bioLNG in shipping will be linked to the widespread use of biomethane across other sectors.
This will require national and international standards for biomethane injection into gas grids, plus a commonly accepted certificate of origin scheme to efficiently trade biomethane in its gaseous and liquefied forms and to minimize transportation costs.
The viability of the LNG pathway depends on the volumes of bioLNG and eLNG that become available to the shipping industry, and the cost of these fuels in comparison to other zero or low-carbon fuels. This latest study from the Maritime Energy and Sustainable Development Centre of Excellence at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, confirms that bioLNG is a solution for the decarbonization of the shipping sector thanks to the mature and commercially available technologies for fuel production and use onboard, existing delivery infrastructure plus the competitive cost compared to other sustainable biofuels and electro-fuels, ended Peter Keller.