Over the past few months the climate impact of LNG fuelled ships have been discussed in several media. It seems it has come as a shock to journalists that LNG fuelled ships will not save the world from increasing temperatures after all.
First of all, LNG fuelled ships have been promoted and developed primarily for their indisputable positive impact on local emissions: Compared to oil based fuels, there are practically no emissions from LNG fuelled ships. It has also been stated that on top of this, there is a CO2 advantage, as the emissions from the combustion process are less. This comes from the simple fact that of all the fossil fuels, methane has the smallest amount of carbon atoms compared to hydrogen atoms in the molecules. So by chemical composition there is less carbon per content of energy, hence less CO2 is produced.
The journalists though seem to enjoy spinning up a story that LNG is not doing anything for the climate, perhaps even having a negative impact. And they seem to base their logic on two aspects:
- Emissions of uncombusted methane from the engines
- Emissions of CO2 through the value chain from well to engine
On both aspects, the journalists draw false conclusions:
- For emissions of uncombusted methane they base their data on the first LNG fuelled marine engines ever installed, they miss the point that these engines are no longer in the product line of the suppliers. The new engines currently being promoted by the manufacturers and installed in new ships greatly reduce the discussed methane slip. We already discussed this in an earlier blog post when the topic was raised by a Norwegian industry magazine, Teknisk Ukeblad.
- For lifecycle emissions from well to engine, there is no basis for shredding doubt of the performance of LNG. We are aware of two scientific studies addressing this issue, one performed by Chalmers University in Sweden, the other by TNO in the Netherlands. Both studies conclude that emissions from well to engine, i.e. excluding the combustion itself, are similar for oil and natural gas products, with a slight advantage for LNG. This means that the 20-25% reduction the engine suppliers are claiming for the combustion is not cancelled out by emissions elsewhere in the value chain.
It is worrying to observe that there is an increasing scepticism towards a measure that clearly has huge positive effects on local air quality because people uncritically buy into eachothers false perceptions.
It is even more worrying to see that these false perceptions are bought into by industry people and not only journalists. An example of this was last week’s blog post by Lloyds Register where Nick Brown states “there may in fact be legitimate concerns that LNG does not reduce CO2 emissions on a like-for-like basis with other fossil fuels“. I would really like to know what the basis for the legitimacy is… hopefully not only information from newspapers?