Natural gas is paving the way for the zero-emission society
The maritime sector in Norway emits 4.3 million tons of CO2. If the Norwegian shipping fleet ran on natural gas in combination with battery instead of oil, the emissions could have been up to 40 % lower.
The climate changes is one of the greatest greatest challenge of our time. The transport Industry is overrepresented in the emission figures, and a lot of efforts and money is being put into finding solutions to reduce these emissions.
The emission figures are far too high, and it is urgent to reduce the emissions. In shipping alone, we estimate the CO2-emissions worldwide to be 800,000,000 tons a year.
The IMO (UN’s International Maritime Organization) has estimated that emissions from the world’s ocean-going shipping fleet account for close to 3 % of all man-made CO2-emissons. The goal is to reduce emission of greenhouse gases by 50 % in 2050. Norway has set a goal of 50 % by 2030 compared to 2005.
Shipping has the advantage of potentially significantly lower environmental impact per unit transported than any other transport alternatives. So, from a climate- and environmental perspective, transferring goods from road to sea is a solution we should strive to achieve.
In other words, it is difficult to achieve emission reduction targets, both in Norway and internationally, without targeted measures and instruments for the shipping industry.
Norwegian politicians have a strong believe that a CO2 tax will be an effective way of reducing emissions. Unfortunately, Norway is the only country in the world with such a tax on marine fuel, which has encouraged ship owners to bunker in Europe instead of Norway. This has led to increased emissions rather than the opposite due to deviations to buy cheaper fuel.
As of today, we have no functioning zero-emission technology for the shipping industry. By zero-emission technology, we mean a perfect solution that can replace the fuel used by the shipping industry today, and which is 100 % free of harmful environmental- and greenhouse gases.
It may sound unrealistic to achieve, but the industry is working hard on solutions, and we believe that several of the technologies we work with can (and should) be ready by the year 2030.
Some operate with even more optimistic estimated, and we hope they are proved right, but undoubtedly, this will take a few more years.
So, what can we do while we wait?
There is one technology that is already here today, and which has up to 40 % lower emissions than the traditional oil.
The technology is Norwegian, has already been in use for many years, requires little maintenance and gathers a lot of attention, especially from abroad.
The technology is liquefied natural gas (correctly called LNG), preferably in combination with battery (LNG Hybrid).
There is a great agreement of that there is an urgent need to reduce emissions, and ships built for natural gas operation can provide climate benefits of as much as 40 % during the process of developing fuel that is even better.
The fastest way to the finish
Norway has been a pioneer in the use and development of natural gas as a fuel for ships, and the technology is designated as the preferred fuel for shipping in the future internationally.
Gas has the potential to be completely emission-free, i.e. a zero-emission technology, but this is a development that must take place in several steps.
For one thing, biogas in combination with natural gas is a good alternative today, while Ammonia and renewable natural gas will require more development.
NORWEGIAN SHIPS OPERATE ON LNG
Hydrogen from natural gas or from electric power is another very exciting track that the industry is working hard on. Here, we are finally talking zero-emission technology.
The day we get heavy-duty long-haul ships to run on hydrogen, we are facing a possible revolution in emission accounting worldwide. But – the research communities believe that this will take time, and that in the meantime, we must use the best we have available today.
Therefore, what is special for natural gas is that we can cut emissions while we work. Now a lot happens in a year, and if we can make use of the potential on the way to the goal, we will have done an important piece of work already, the day the zero-emission technology is ready for the market.
Not only will the technology finally be mature, but the market will also have far better conditions to implement the technology rapidly.
A ship built for natural gas will require very little conversion to be able to change its fuel to renewable gas, such as Ammonia. And a shipowner who previously has changed oil in favour of natural gas, may need less motivation to make further upgrading in the direction of renewable energy.
Why are we discussing this?
The solution as described here is often perceived as obvious. However, natural gas is controversial as it is still a fossil energy today.
As a non-renewable energy resource, it was subject to a CO2-tax in Norway in 2017, and because of this the positive increase in LNG-powered ships in the Norwegian shipping fleet really slowed down.
Ships that finally met the authorities’ emission targets were suddenly no longer seen as a priority, and the combination of uncertain constraints and fluctuating economic conditions, have contributed to that diesel often appears as an easier choice.
The critics of a gradual approach to the zero-emission society as we have outlined above, will argue that by require already today that the fuel in the shipping industry shall be 100 % renewable and 100 % emission-free, then the vacuum that arises in the industry will enforce the zero-emission solutions faster.
In recent years, the Norwegian authorities have acted in line with this theory.
If the technology already existed and if the threshold for investing for the shipping companies was about for example costs or little knowledge, this would be a good hypothesis.
However, this is not the situation for this industry. Here we are talking about requirements for the use of a technology that simply do not yet exist.
Technology that the industry itself experiences as so far-off that the obvious alternative is doing nothing, continue as before or rather wait for the final solution.
Meanwhile and consequently, millions of barrels of oil are used as fuel in the shipping industry, with staggering- and unnecessarily high- CO2-emissions.
- Natural gas must be part of the solution if Norway shall reach its goal of agreed emission cuts within the year 2030.
- Natural gas is the only realistic bridge builder from fossil energy sources to renewable energy sources, both in the short- and medium term, and it is urgent that the authorities prioritize natural gas as a focus area.
- As of today, natural gas in combination with battery packs (LNG Hybrid) is the only alternative for ships that travel longer distances, and for participants in the shipping industry who want to contribute to emission reductions.
- LNG is available today, and the technology can use several types of renewable gases as soon as they are available.
- By introducing a CO2-tax for participants that already had converted their ships to natural gas, the authorities created uncertainty about the constraints for natural gas. Therefore, it is extra important that we now establish clear and predictable guidelines for the use of natural gas as a fuel in the shipping industry.
- LNG is a Norwegian technology with massive potential, and the investments made in LNG will return to Norwegian jobs and Norwegian innovation.