The Lloyd’s List Podcast: Is LNG really borderline greenwashing?
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Opting for a generation of liquefied natural gas-fuelled ships today will delay climate action in shipping by 20 years, according to Maersk and those dismissing the current trend towards dual-fuelled tonnage as little more than ‘greenwashing’. Pragmatic commercial opportunity? Perhaps. But is gas a viable climate strategy for shipping? This week’s podcast sucks the hot air out of shipping’s most important debate and looks at why there is a schism developing in the industry
THE LNG debate is certainly dividing the room right now.
“I think it is borderline greenwashing to call liquefied natural gas a transition fuel towards the decarbonisation of shipping,” Maersk’s decarbonisation head Jacob Sterling told us this week in our How to Decarbonise Shipping webinar.
The online response to his unambiguous stance drew criticism from those who question whether Maersk’s strategy of leapfrogging the LNG transition via green methanol is going fast enough today.
You can watch part of the exchange on LNG from the webinar here.
Shipowners are hesitant precisely because they know this is a fast-moving policy debate where they risk being caught on the wrong side of a shifting timeline.
While there are an increasing number of shipowners exposed to LNG via dual-fuel vessels, either in operation or in the growing orderbooks, LNG is still a relatively small percentage of their respective fleets, suggesting this is a case commercial pragmatism rather than climate strategy.
Recent fleet moves can be read less as climate strategy and more as hedge betting and paying for flexibility to ensure that cargo interests are appeased without having to bet the farm on a technology that is at best transitory.
But emotions are running high on this one and an industry schism is developing.
On the one side you have the supermajors already invested in gas growth in the wake of peak oil production. You have an existing gas infrastructure and a body of industry know-how, and of course, you have cargo interests keen to maximise the 20% plus efficiency gains promised by dual-fuelled options that go some way to burnishing their eco credentials in the supply chain.
But even before you start throwing methane slip into the debate and get to grips with the political and financial implications of the World Bank’s anti-LNG stance, the dynamics in such demands remain unbalanced for shipping — owners have a 25-year financing view, charters tend to be no more than 10 years at best, but freight contracts are negotiated annually and all parties acknowledge that LNG’s longevity as a transitional fuel option is at best limited.
We have already seen some cargo interest publicly state that LNG shipping is not for them and if the shippers shun gas then those triumphant bets on dual-fuelled tonnage quickly start to look less attractive.
The podcast this week pulls in two of Lloyd’s List’s finest to cut through the hot air surrounding LNG — our carbon-neutral sustainability editor Anastassios Adamopoulos and our greenwash avenger and markets Editor Michelle Wiese Bockmann.