BunkeringEnvironmentFinance and Insurance

World Bank urges governments to stop spending on LNG bunkering infrastructure

The World Bank has a new report out this week on decarbonising maritime transport in which it specifically recommends countries pull back from investing in further LNG bunkering infrastructure.

The World Bank has concluded that green ammonia closely followed by green hydrogen strike the advantageous balance of favourable features among a range of different candidate bunker fuels for ships. These features relate to the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, broader environmental factors, the scalability, the economics, and the technical and safety implications of each fuel.

Ammonia or hydrogen also have the advantage of having multiple production pathways, the bank pointed out, providing a significant strategic advantage which alleviates concerns about capacity limits and technology issues.

The bank recommends countries avoid new public policy that supports LNG as a bunker fuel and reconsider existing policy support

The bank preferred ammonia over hydrogen because hydrogen is expensive to store and handle, particularly onboard a vessel.

Both biofuels and synthetic carbon-based fuels are not expected to become a major power source, the bank predicted.

Taking a swipe at LNG as a fuel, the bank recommended that countries should avoid new public policy that supports LNG as a bunker fuel, reconsider existing policy support, and continue to regulate methane emissions.

“LNG is effectively liquefied methane, and methane is itself a highly potent GHG. Over 20-year and 100-year time horizons, methane is respectively 86 times and 36 times more potent a GHG than CO2. Therefore, any GHG emissions from unburnt methane released to the atmosphere – called methane leakage – can diminish or even entirely offset the theoretical GHG benefit of the use of LNG,” the bank warned.

According to Clarksons, 3.6% of the current merchant fleet is LNG fuel capable in gt terms, while 26.3% of the global orderbook is primed to be LNG ready.

“Zero-carbon fuels will need to represent at least 5% of the bunker fuel mix by 2030 to put shipping on a GHG trajectory consistent with the initial IMO GHG strategy, as well as the Paris Agreement’s temperature goals, ” said Binyam Reja, World Bank acting global director for transport. “This means they need to be scaled up rapidly.”

The research makes the case that strategic policy interventions are needed to hasten the sector’s energy transition with the bank coming out in favour of a meaningful carbon price to create a level playing field for the development and utilisation of zero-carbon bunker fuels.

Keen to dismiss the methane leakage argument, two LNG bunker lobby groups revealed details this week of an independent, peer-reviewed study that claims GHG reductions of up to 23% are achievable now from using LNG as a marine fuel, depending on the marine technology employed. This is compared with the emissions of current oil-based marine fuels measured from well-to-wake .

This report used the latest primary data to assess all major types of marine engines and global sources of supply with data provided by original equipment manufacturers including Caterpillar MaK, Caterpillar Solar Turbines, GE, MAN Energy Solutions, Rolls Royce (MTU), Wärtsilä, and Winterthur Gas & Diesel, as well as from ExxonMobil, Shell, and Total on the supply side. Methane emissions from the supply chains as well as methane released during the onboard combustion process – also known as methane slip – have been included in the analysis.

Peter Keller, chairman of lobby group SEA-LNG, commented: “Often based on outdated data, methane slip has become an overused argument for those wishing to justify inaction.”

The study claims that by 2030 methane slip will have been “virtually eliminated” as technological improvements continue.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. IMO needs to fake a little more time that burning LNG they clean the atmosphere.

  2. It is clear that LNG is not a solution for GHG reduction, but ammonia as well. It is highly possible and expolsiv gas. It is not easy to handle.

  3. There is a much simpler and less costly method of “Greening the Maritime Industry” than liquid nitrogen and ammonia, the price tag of which is now estimated even at $3.4 trillion. I don’t think that this even includes the costs for the roundabout 500,000 large wind turbines necessary to produce the electric energy required for the electrolysis and liquefaction of hydrogen and ammonia. When people argue that biofuel will not be available in sufficient amounts, they think of oil and fat-based biofuels. Yes, we all know the problems of oil palm plantations and rain forests uprooting. However, I’m not talking about this third generation of biofuels. The 4th generation could achieve decarbonization much more economically and with less stranded assets, which are for sure also not yet included in the calculation. We are implementing currently projects for converting agricultural biomass WASTE like sugarcane trash, orchard pruning residue, park, and garden waste etc. into renewable, carbon-neutral fuel that fulfills the ISO8217 requirements of fossil VLSFO from the tap. The quality has been tested by the shipping industry and found excellent – in principle MGO with a little bit higher sulfur content (0.2%). This can also be further reduced to 10 PPM for road diesel according to ASTM D975/EN590. Rendering the Shipping Industry by at least 75% carbon neutral would require 900 million tons of biomass waste. This sounds a lot, but the agriculture in India alone produces that much, half of it is currently burnt in the fields making the air of cities like New Delhi unbreathable (https://youtu.be/ftwLjqH2P3c). A tremendous waste of useful energy.

    And the costs to achieve this? First, there is NO CHANGE of port infrastructure and only minuscule adaptions of the currently installed ship engines required, which means close to zero costs. And the production equipment? My back-of-the-envelope calculation showed a price tag of roundabout $350 billion to render the maritime industry at least 75% carbon neutral by 2030, not 50% by 2050. That’s doable and sounds a bit better than $3.4 trillion! Operating diesel engines with “remote carbon-capturing” (provided by Mother Nature with agricultural vegetation for free) and renewable, carbon-neutral fuel does a better job than hoping for a wonder that will make hydrogen and ammonia feasible and affordable in less than 20 years.

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