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Taking issue with the findings of a report published by the World Bank in April, ship design and engineering company Conoship says there is a ‘bright future for LNG in the decarbonisation of the shipping industry’.

Netherlands-based Conoship argued that in in relation to marine carbon capture systems, the World Bank report ‘seemed to have missed an important recent technical development’.

Conoship highlighted the ‘great progress’ that has been achieved relating to the capture of CO2 from the exhausts of LNG-fuelled ships.

‘Among others, R&D in the Netherlands – by Conoship, TNO Delft and other partners – leads to feasible and practical ship-based solutions, utilising “the cold” of the LNG (-160 dgr. C) to liquefy the CO2 and store it in regular liquid-CO2-tankcontainers on board,’ said Conoship. ‘The captured CO2 can be unloaded while bunkering LNG, to be stored for example offshore in empty gas fields, for which infrastructure is under development in Norway (Northern Lights), Rotterdam (Porthos), Amsterdam (Athos) and by parties like CarbonCollectors.’

Conoship continued: ‘As the captured and liquefied CO2 can be ‘food-grade’, wider utilisation is foreseen in the future as an important and valuable feedstock for the production of synthetic fuels, like synthetic-kerosine, -diesel, -methanol or -methane. Next to ‘green hydrogen’, the production of synthetic fuels requires vast amounts of CO2, for which ‘direct air capture’ is a very inefficient source.’

The ship design and engineering company said that the same ships that actually are fuelled by LNG can be fuelled in the future by Liquified Synthetic-Methane (LSM), using the same existing LNG-infrastructure. A closed carbon-loop can be achieved by capturing the CO2 after the combustion of LSM in the ship, liquefying it and providing it as feedstock to the producer of the Liquified Synthetic Methane.

Conoship said its R&D and design studies show that by future application of onboard CO2-capturing, liquefaction and storage, LNG-driven ships can both be a good direct economic and ecological alternative to diesel-driven ships, realising large reductions of SOx, NOx and PM, and smaller reductions of CO2. It also argued that the technology was a ‘good future-proof economic and ecological solution’, increasing the reduction of CO2-emissions – ‘possibly stepwise’ - to the desired economical and ecological level by application of a CO2-capturing installation.

‘By integrating the CO2-capturing installation in the initial ship design at Conoship, we reduce the future impact of the modification. However, CCS installations are also suitable for retrofits on board of LNG powered vessels,’ said Conoship.

Many detractors of LNG as a marine fuel point to the issue of methane slip as a major drawback. However, Conoship said ‘good progress’ was being made to address this, both in combustion technology in engines and in after-treatment technology, and that there is ‘no reason why application of the solutions should be limited to a fraction of the fleet’.

Furthermore, despite all developments, the quantity of green hydrogen, either to be used directly as fuel, or as feedstock for e-fuels, ‘will remain limited’, said Conoship.

‘It would make sense to use this scarce quantity for applications for which there are no alternatives, such as in long range aviation.’

Conoship said that the introduction, through the International Maritime Organization, of a CO2-levy per ton emitted CO2 will facilitate the economical application of CO2-capturing installations on LNG-driven vessels in the coming years.

‘All in all LNG, when combined with CCS, should therefore still be considered as a more than valuable transition fuel up to 2050, reducing the carbon footprint of shipping and its customers with more than 75% compared to today’s diesel-powered operations,’ Conoship said.

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