The Methane Abatement in Maritime (MAM) Innovation Initiative, a coalition of shipping leaders launched on September 6th, 2022, aims to minimise the environmental impact of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in shipping, whilst aiding the transition to future fuel solutions.
Led by Safetytech Accelerator, established by Lloyd’s Register, MAM is a technology acceleration programme whose activities will initially be supported by seven partners: Maran Gas Maritime, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Carnival Corporation & Plc, Seaspan, Shell, Lloyd’s Register and Knutsen Group. It will also draw on the expertise of academics, civil society, and other stakeholders, such as the National Physical Laboratory.
In its first year, members will seek to identify and pilot new technologies to monitor and reduce ‘methane slip’ from vessels fuelled by LNG. Once these solutions have been validated, the initiative will seek to endorse them to industry from 2023.
The need to address methane slip
LNG has long been understood by the shipping industry as a bridging fuel to support its decarbonisation efforts – with campaign groups forecasting that over two-thirds of new ships will be powered by LNG by 2025. Since 2010 the number of vessels fuelled by LNG has grown consistently by 20-40% per annum. Compared to traditional marine fuels, LNG is widely understood to generate less carbon dioxide (CO2), and emit less Nitrogen Oxides (NOx), Sulphur Dioxide (Sox), and Particulate Matter (PM), for the same propulsion power.
However, some analysis has indicated that the environmental benefits of using LNG could be negated due to the propensity of LNG-vessels to leak unburned methane through the combustion process. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, estimated to have a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of 27-30 over 100 years, while CO2 has a GWP of 1 regardless of time period used.
Defining what constitutes negligible methane emissions, and then ensuring the sector meets that target, is therefore a vital imperative for an industry grappling with its climate footprint and increasingly using LNG as a transition fuel. To date, there are no globally recognised methods for measuring methane slip – with a lack of available data and tools contributing to the issue. It is hoped that the new solutions identified by the innovation initiative will help the industry to understand the extent of, and then manage, their methane emissions activities.
Measuring the scale of methane emissions, and understanding if they can be managed to negligible levels, will signal if Liquefied Bio Methane (LBM) and Liquefied synthetic methane (LSM) are viable pathway fuels to help achieve 2050 decarbonisation targets.
Steve Price, Head of Partnerships, Safetytech Accelerator highlighted that ”better information will allow the maritime industry to better understand the extent to which its LNG-fuelled ships are emitting methane.”
Tom Strang, SVP Maritime Affairs, Carnival, said: “LNG has consistently provided substantial benefits in maritime operations over time, including virtually zero sulfur and significantly reduced overall emissions, as the industry’s most advanced fuel available to date,”
Andreas Spertos, EVP-Technical Director, Maran Gas Maritime Inc. (MGM), said: “Maran Gas Maritime has long been convinced of the advantages of LNG as a clean burning fuel and as an alternative marine fuel. However, in light of the strong warming potential of methane releases to the atmosphere, keeping tight control over methane emissions is critical to ensure that LNG’s overall GHG footprint delivers as much GHG reduction as possible versus conventional marine fuels.
So far, there have been many noticeable efforts within the industry to address the methane slip. Recently, ABS published a white paper to discusses the growing concern surrounding methane while SIGTTO published report to assist the gas shipping industry with guidance. What is more, in April, SEA-LNG, a multi-sector marine fuel coalition, announced that methane slip from LNG-fuelled vessels is a recognised problem that the maritime industry has been actively addressing for well over a decade, however the misinformation that exists about the issue delays shipping’s decarbonization efforts.
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