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Using LNG and LPG as fuel – practical solutions to shipping’s energy transition

Practical solutions that can be implemented today and provide a pathway to low and zero carbon fuels were the focus of panellists discussing shipping’s clean energy transition.

While discussions on meeting the IMO’s 2050 decarbonisation targets for shipping often focus on fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia, which are still largely on the drawing board for shipping, LNG and LPG  are available now and were highlighted by the Accelerating Shipping's Clean Energy Transition panel on day two of Seatrade Maritime Middle East Virtual.

Looking at the discussion on future fuels Steve Esau, SEA-LNG - General Manager, commented: “I would say at the moment its dominated by academics and NGOs with a really rather blinkered focus on the end goal. There’s really limited discussions on the practical commercial considerations of how to get there.“

“It’s going to be a massive scaling exercise whichever we look at it, and I guess in our view there is going to be a multiplicity of solutions for decarbonisation there is not going to be a single silver bullet.”

The question then is how to meet the transition period and Dragos Rauta, Technical Director, Intertanko, said: “There is a transition is 20 – 25 years. Ships coming out in next five years have to have features that keep them competitive in 2035 and 2040.”

Christos Chryssakis, Business Development Manager for DNV GL – Maritime commented on what fuels were available currently: “The fuels that are available today are LNG and to some extent LPG, and these are two fuels that can have a real impact today, and they can also help use prepare for the future. Today by using LNG or LPG can reduce GHG by 15% and these are also fuels that give you quite a good safety margin today on newbuilding being compliant for the lifetime of the vessel.”

Giving the perspective of a shipowner who is investing in new ships today was Capt Mohamed Al Ali, SVP Ship Management for ADNOC Logistics & Services, and it has chosen to go down the route of LNG and LPG as fuels depending on vessel type. He explained that an owner needed to understand the operating profile of its vessels and decide accordingly on the most cost-effective design.

“We have ordered our VLGCs with dual fuel capability to enable vessels to burn LPG as an alternative and cleaner fuel,” he said.

Looking to its crude tanker fleet Capt Mohamed Al Ali, explained: “For us in our trading pattern we see that LNG is going to be the right fuel type for our aframaxes and VLCCs going forward because it’s going to bridge this CO2 reduction gap as well as energy efficiency reductions included in our designs.

“One of the advantages of LNG is that in the long term not only is it enabling you meet the regulation it’s also one of the most cost effective commercially even against LPG.”

LNG is not only available now but also offers the opportunity to switch to zero carbon fuels in future. Esau explained: “It offers immediate greenhouse gas reductions and it paves the way for further long-term decarbonisation through the use of zero emissions bio-LNG and synthetic LNG and these fuels can use exactly the same vessels and exactly the same infrastructure.”

Capt Mohamed Al Ali said that ADNOC Logistics & Services was already in discussion with partners on synthetic LNG and how this could be made available in the UAE, and sees it as a future fuel solution for LNG-powered vessels as it does not require further retrofits or investment.

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