Friday, June 5, 2015

Study: LNG Preferable for Arctic Shipping

By Mark Edward Nero

A study on marine fuel alternatives for use in the Arctic commissioned by the Canadian arm of the World Wildlife Federation states that the risks of using heavy fuel oil for shipping operations could be greatly reduced by switching to liquefied natural gas. 

Of all the marine fuel options, heavy fuel oil is the most polluting and will cause the most damage in the event of a spill, WWF-Canada President and CEO David Miller said.

The report, titled Fuel Alternatives for Arctic Shipping, was commissioned by WWF-Canada and conducted by Vard Marine, a ship design and marine engineering company based in Vancouver, BC. The study assessed the environmental impacts of heavy fuel oil, diesel, and liquefied natural gas, and also compared ship design, fuel consumption, and the economic aspects of each marine fuel option.

The study found that the use of LNG reduced pollutants by up to 97 percent, while greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by up to 25 percent. There was also a significant reduction in the risk of environmental damage from spills, as LNG dissipates into the atmosphere almost immediately. Moving to diesel fuel was also found to have environmental advantages, but to a lesser extent.

Although there are environmental advantages to LNG, many technical and practical barriers remain. LNG is cheaper than diesel, but current heavy oil fuel prices are lower. Also, a conceptual design has revealed that the cost of building LNG-fueled ships would be higher than conventional options, and that no possibility exists to retrofit HFO-fueled ships currently in operation.

The study states that LNG is the fuel of the future for new ships to meet regulatory requirements to reduce impacts on the environment. The full 44-page report is available at