Report finds shift to LNG could worsen shipping's climate impact

Professional Mariner|June/July 2020

Report finds shift to LNG could worsen shipping's climate impact
Switching to liquefied natural gas (LNG) is being widely touted as a responsible way for ships to reduce their climate impact, but it’s actually making greenhouse gas emissions far worse, according to an international environmental advocacy group.
Patricia McCarthy

Kendra Ulrich, shipping campaigns director for Stand.earth, said her group commissioned the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) to study LNG’s impact, and the findings about the fuel’s shortcomings “surprised even us.”

When used instead of fuel oil, LNG significantly lowers emissions of sulfur oxides and particulate matter, but unburned fuel from incomplete combustion escapes into the atmosphere. This phenomenon, known as methane slip, is an enormous problem, Ulrich said, because methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas — it traps 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide (CO2) does.

The report’s findings were questioned by Steve Esau, general manager of SEALNG, an industry coalition that is promoting LNG as a marine fuel. He called LNG “the most commercially viable alternative fuel to reduce shipping’s carbon footprint. It’s not the complete answer, but it’s a big improvement.”

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June/July 2020

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