Removing barriers to the use of LNG as a clean fuel

VDR aims to establish liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the shipping industry as an environment- and climate-friendly alternative to conventional maritime fuels. 

The "Brussels Express": the world's first large container ship converted to LNG - a symbol of innovation made in Germany (© Hapag-Lloyd AG)

LNG is currently the only marketable fuel available that the maritime industry can use to approach the climate targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and to meet the goals set for reducing air emissions. Important in the long term is the fact that LNG technology can also enable the large-scale use of alternative, so-called “green” gases on board ships in a climate-neutral way. In other words, a ship engine that burns oil-based fuels cannot be converted to use “green gas” without a great deal of effort and expense, but a “dual-fuel” or “LNG-capable” engine can. This has prompted VDR to call for discussions of using LNG as a propulsion fuel even for large sea-going vessels and for the advantages and disadvantages of doing so to be carefully weighed.

Given the high investments costs required to do so, only a handful of German shipping companies are so far able to deploy LNG vessels. Due to the special engines, additional piping systems and tanks, ships that can run on both LNG and conventional fuels (“dual-fuel” propulsion) are up to 25 percent more expensive.

As a leading maritime hub, Germany should be one of the pioneers in the field of alternative fuels. Thus, the German government’s extension and expansion of its programme to provide financial assistance for building new LNG ships or converting older ones to LNG propulsion represents a big step forward. At the time, the original programme was largely the result of a VDR initiative. The increase in funding by 30 million euros (to 120 million euros) was excellent news not only for Germany as a shipping hub, but also for climate protection.

What’s more, legal hurdles are sometimes preventing LNG ships from calling as well as bunkering in German seaports, even though LNG powered ships are among the safest vessels in the world. It must become normal routine that LNG powered ships can also bunker in all German ports. And to make sure that LNG ships can be handled as efficiently as conventional vessels, they must also be able to bunker during loading and discharging activities.

About LNG

LNG (liquefied natural gas) is natural gas that has been cooled to minus 162 degrees Celsius, at which point it becomes a liquid. As a result, it shrinks to just a fraction of its volume, which allows it to be transported in tanks and used as fuel on ships. The COCO2 emissions of LNG are up to 25 percent lower than those of conventional fuels, such as heavy fuel oil or diesel. LNG combusts without creating any sulphur or soot. In addition, it produces up to 80 percent less nitrogen oxide.