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DNV GL backs LNG as a ‘pathway to carbon-neutral fuels’

DNV GL’s maritime boss, Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, has affirmed the class society’s continued support for LNG as a marine fuel.

Gas brings many possibilities regarding the phasing in of other types of fuels, he told journalists at a London meeting, including synthetic fuels, biodiesel, hydrogen and ammonia. However, these fuel technologies will take a considerable time to develop, he said, and in the meantime, LNG should be viewed as more than just a “bridging fuel” because it offers an immediate carbon-reducing option which could well be used in the next one or two generations of ships.

Ørbeck-Nilssen welcomed the International Chamber of Shipping’s (ICS) proposal to set up a mandatory carbon levy scheme which, he suggested, should underpin research and development into other fuel types.

But he insisted that although LNG is a hydrocarbon and therefore still a generator of greenhouse gases (GHG), it is better to start with something that reduces emissions, rather than “sitting around and waiting for a better alternative”.

Addressing the issue of methane slip in LNG-fuelled engines, Ørbeck-Nilssen conceded that this issue is a challenge, but one that is manageable. Methane is a more damaging GHG than carbon dioxide, but he blamed a recent research paper from the International Council on Clean Transportation for causing confusion.

This research had suggested that the GHG-reducing properties of LNG have been overestimated. But Ørbeck-Nilssen declared that methane slip has already been dramatically reduced in latest engine designs and will be cut further in future, particularly in two-stroke engines used on large vessels such as container ships and VLCCs.

He conceded that shipping will not be able to meet the IMO’s carbon-reduction targets ‘by gas alone’, but a range of other technologies could potentially yield energy savings of 15-35% for a typical vessel.