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Future-oriented shipping runs on natural gas

The shipping industry is associated with large emissions of harmful climate- and environmental harmful gases.

Every year, we register an increase in inquiries from socially conscious shipping companies that actively want to reduce their footprint in the climate- and environmental accounts. The first ones switched to natural gas in year 2001. Today, more than 100 Norwegian-owned ships operate on LNG.

A report indicates that in Europe only, more than 50.000 people suffer from premature death due to air pollution from shipping. Increased awareness of harmful emissions from the shipping industry, means that many shipping companies today are looking for cleaner fuel solutions for their new ships. Nevertheless, it is not straightforward to orientate oneself in the market. Both the industry and the authorities talk a lot about zero-emission technology, but for most ships, these solutions are still only available on the drawing board.


However, there is an alternative to oil for all kinds of ships. Natural gas (LNG) is today the only alternative to traditional fuel for shipping companies that want to cut emissions – and greenhouse gases today. In fact, a new ship powered by natural gas has up to 40 % lower CO2– emissions (depending on technology), and up to 90-100 % reduction of harmful -and air polluting environmental gases. Ships operating on natural gas already meet the authorities’ emission targets, and if Norway shall reach its objective of the committed emission cuts by 2030, it must include the shipping industry. Natural gas is the only tool we have available that will cut emissions overnight.

What is natural gas, and how does it work as a fuel?

When we speak about natural gas as a fuel for ships, we are talking about LNG (Liquified Natural Gas), or to put it more simply; natural gas that is made liquid by being cooled.

The technology is Norwegian, and the first 50 ships that ran on LNG were Norwegian. Now, 20 years later we have a solid foundation to be able to establish that LNG-powered ships are simple and safe to use and require little maintenance. Also, we notice that shipping companies that have ordered LNG-vessels continue to do so for their newbuilding.

The future for natural gas as fuel

Natural gas alone is not a perfect solution for the market if we are to look 10-15 years ahead. The technology still has higher emission levels than we want in the long run, but it is the best option available today. Furthermore, it is very adaptable when better solutions become available, and both adjustments and transitions to new and even better technology will require marginal rebuilding.

Biogas is thus a very exciting track, and in combination with natural gas would be able to represent almost zero in emissions.

Biogas has been in use for a long time now, and when the production capacity increases, this will probably be the renewal energy source that first will be available for heavy industry and the shipping industry. Natural gas and biogas have the same composition and can be used interchangeably. Green ammonia and renewable (synthetic) natural gas are other gases with great potential for long-distance shipping, but are probably even a little further ahead in time.

Threshold in access

The threshold for many who want to take greater responsibility for the climate- and environment, is about access to fuel with good enough properties. Internationally, there are currently a limited number of ports that provide services within bunkering, storage and distribution of LNG. The situation represents «the hen-and-the egg» problem; shipping companies balk at investing because the possibilities for bunkering are currently limited, and the supplier link balks at investing in LNG because the demand is not perceived as large enough – yet.

Nevertheless, the demand for climate-friendly solutions today is perceived as so huge that even if the development is slower than many had imagined, it will at least go in the right direction. In Norway, the situation is different. Here, companies such as Gasnor have taken the responsibility for building a distribution system that allows LNG to be offered in several ports, also from bunkering vessels.

A future solution

If the goal is concrete cuts from day one, building with the purpose of LNG is the most effective choice a shipping company can make. As being a Norwegian technology, the choice will also serve the Norwegian shipbuilding- and supplier industry, the state’s petroleum revenues (by investing in a petroleum product with a lower emission level) and not least the environment.

A shipping company building for natural gas demonstrates social responsibility, competitiveness, green future solutions and- not least- it emphasizes itself as an attractive workplace for the next generation of climate- and environment-conscious workers. For questions, prices or information about natural gas as a fuel, please contact us.

Tor Ivar Hetland Drivstoff til Skip og fornybar gass

Tor Ivar Hetland

Director Mobility

+47 905 57 005

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