LNG will be the dominant fuel powering the global shipping industry by 2030, according to experts speaking at the LNG Bunkering Mediterranean Summit in Barcelona on Thursday.
The forecast was based on LNG being considerably cheaper than low-sulphur marine oils. It would mean that 80% of the current global fleet could not be converted to LNG and would have to be scrapped and replaced, said keynote speaker James Ashworth of energy consultant Tri-Zen.
This would be expensive for owners but good for national economies as it would create jobs, particularly in the shipyard and auxiliary industries.
Several speakers believed that exhaust gas treatments, such as scrubbers, are not sustainable in the long term, especially since there would be no reliable means of policing disposal of the toxic sludge produced by exhaust treatments and preventing them from being dumped at sea.
LNG infrastructure pilot projects from both the western and eastern Mediterranean were presented at the event in Barcelona, but doubts were expressed over whether a proposed sulphur emission control area in the Mediterranean would come into force by 2025 in accordance with a timetable proposed by the European Union.
“The Mediterranean cannot be made into a control area without the co-operation of the countries on the north African littoral and that is a challenge,” said one LNG industry source on the conference sidelines.
The latest EU directives talk of core EU ports “offering LNG infrastructure” by that date, which is very different from owners actually investing in ships running on LNG.
“Fuel is such a big part of the costs of operating a ship that owners will only switch to alternative fuels if it makes economic sense to do so or if they are forced to do so,” the source commented.
Other speakers pointed out that, in contrast to northern Europe, very few Mediterranean countries had national programmes and policies encouraging the growth of LNG infrastructure.
“The Italian government is discussing a new tax reduction system based on the characteristics of ships powered by LNG, but as regards other local incentives in the Med I’m not really sure,” said Jeff Seisler, CEO of Clean Fuels Consulting.