Decarbonized fuel in shipping industry. Explained LNG, Ammonia, Hydrogen and Methanol

Neko SenpaiNeko Senpai

About Decarbonized fuel in Shipping Industry!

Kamome SenpaiKamome Senpai

This video takes 9:24 !

Hello, it’s IINO.
I would like to explain in this video about the current situation of the decarbonized fuel in shipping industry.

The term “decarbonization” is a hot keyword in various industries appearing daily in the news these days.

Companies around the world are making various efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions such as CO2 for the sake of the global environment.

Decarbonized fuel in Shipping Industry

It is also the same in the shipping industry.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ships by at least 50% by 2050.

In order to achieve this goal, the shipping industry is beginning to reconsider its use of marine fuels.

In this video, I would like to introduce the next generation fuels for decarbonization in the shipping industry and explain each current status and subject.

Let’s get started.

Three Step for Decarbonization by IMO

First, please understand that there are three steps in the IMO’s transition to decarbonization.

1. reduce GHG emissions by at least 40% by 2030
2. reduce GHG emissions by at least 50% by 2050
3. reduce GHG emissions to zero by the end of this century

The goals are broken down into phases like this, therefore, from the present year of 2021, there is practices to be implemented by 2030 as short-term goal and the one by 2050 as mid-term goal.

The Current Fuel for Ship

Heavy oil is currently used as ship fuel.

If you work in the logistics or shipping industry, you’ve probably heard of low-sulfur fuel oil which became mandatory in January 2020. It is familiar in your daily practice as a surcharge called LSS.

Low-sulfur heavy oil was used against PM2.5 air pollution, but under the theme, it is one of greenhouse gas that leads to global warming.

Even low sulfur, it is still heavy oil, emits CO2, so there is a trend to switch to other fuels.

The Attracted Next Generation Fuels

The next generation fuels that are attracting particular attention are LNG (liquefied natural gas), ammonia, hydrogen and more recently methanol.

It is not only the fuel that needs to be changed. As we switch to these fuels, we must also change our engines, fuel tanks and fuel supply infrastructure.

I will explain each fuel with these.

LNG (liquefied natural gas)

Firstly, let me explain LNG (liquefied natural gas) which is already in practical use as a marine fuel.

It is said to reduce CO2 emissions by about 26%, Sox (sulfur oxides) by zero and Nox (nitrogen oxides) by about 30% compared to heavy oil.

However, it is said that when LNG is burned in an engine, unburned methane (methane slip) leaks out. Methane slip is about 25 times more potent than CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

It’s also considered a problem that cows as livestock emit methane.

Since there are no regulations on methane slip suppression yet, it is assumed that IMO will develop international standards related to methane slip in the future.


Secondly, it is about ammonia. Ammonia has been used mainly as a fertilizer, but in recent years, the use as a fuel has been attracting attention.

Since ammonia for use as fertilizer is commonly distributed, the know-how for transportation and storage is well established.

If you use ammonia, it reduces CO2 emissions to zero, but fuel engines to use ammonia have not yet been developed.

Technology is needed to burn ammonia efficiently, since it is difficult to burn. Also measures are needed to prevent the generation of N2O (nitrous oxide) which has a greenhouse effect about 300 times greater than CO2.

In addition, the volume is 2.7 times larger than heavy oil, so it needs larger fuel tanks and causes less space for transportation.

This is another point that should not be overlooked as efficiency is very important in cargo transportation. Also, ammonia itself is a toxic and corrosive hazardous material, so we must pay attention to the safety of handling it.


And then there is hydrogen.

Hydrogen fuel has been attracting a lot of attention in automobiles. Even if hydrogen is burned, it does not emit CO2 or Sox, but it does produce Nox, so we need technology to suppress this.

Hydrogen, like ammonia, has not yet been developed as a fuel engine for ships.

It needs to be cooled to -253 degrees Celsius to store hydrogen as a liquid. In addition, the volume is 4.5 times larger than heavy oil so the fuel tank must be large.

And contrary to ammonia, hydrogen is very flammable and burns very fast, therefore high combustion control technology is needed. In addition, the infrastructure for transportation and fuel supply is not in place.


And finally, methanol.

Methanol can be produced from natural gas, coal, renewable energy, etc. And it is said that when it burns it reduces CO2 by 10%, Sox by zero and Nox by 30%.

As for the reduction of CO2, we cannot expect much effect if the raw materials are made from natural gas, but if they are made from renewable energy, it effects significantly.

It was in the news the other day that Maersk, a major shipping company, has already ordered the industry’s first container feeder ship that uses methanol.

In this sense, there is a possibility that the introduction of methanol will proceed faster than ammonia and hydrogen.

Summary of Characteristics of Each Fuel

The characteristics of each fuel can be summarized as follows.

Advantages: CO2 reduction of approx. 26%, actual introduction
Subject: Methane slips (greenhouse effect: 25 times greater than CO2)

Advantages: Zero CO2 generation, know-how on transportation and storage as fertilizer
Subject: Flame retardant, N2O generation (greenhouse effect: 300 times greater than CO2), 2.7 times greater in volume, toxic

Advantages: Zero CO2 generation
Subject: Requires high combustion control technology, 4.5 times the volume, storage technology and infrastructure not yet developed

Advantages: Significant CO2 reduction (in case made from renewable energy), actual introduction
Subject: 2.4 times the volume, more expensive than LNG

Each fuel has its own characteristics and future technological development is also a major factor.

The Movement of Shipping Company for Decarbonization

First of all, in order to achieve the short-term goal of 40% GHG reduction by 2030, shipping companies are now ordering LNG carriers.

The shipping companies which making large profits, due to the shortage of containers and space caused by corona, seem that they are making capital investments one after another.

As for ammonia and hydrogen, the point is future technological development.

Regarding hydrogen, we have so far succeeded in developing passenger ships using hydrogen fuel cells, but the adoption of hydrogen for cargo ships still has a long way to go.

Which is the Next Generation Fuel ?

According to a summary by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, the breakdown of energy consumed by shipping in 2050, will be 42% LNG, and 45% hydrogen and ammonia.

While it is expected that LNG is the main fuel in the short to medium term, major companies have recently established or begun investing in companies that produce raw materials, ammonia and methanol.


What did you think of this issue?

I talked about the basics of decarbonization efforts in the shipping industry. Personally, I think it will be very interesting to see, how the battle for the leading role in the next generation of energy will develop.

I deliver information on trade and international logistics, in an easy-to-understand manner in this channel. Please subscribe it.

That’s all for this time! Thank you very much!

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