Swedish biogas can replace fossil ship fuel

Within a few years, it may be possible to replace fossil LNG with renewable liquid methane from Swedish biogas plants. This according to a new research report from IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute and Chalmers.

To reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and sulfur, more and more Swedish shipping companies are choosing to build ships that run on liquefied natural gas, LNG, instead of conventional fossil bunker oil. But LNG only reduces emissions to some extent and the next step is to replace the fossil fuel with liquid biomethane, LBM. The interest in this shift is great. Several Swedish shipping companies have already begun to mix biofuels with the goal of achieving fossil-free operations in the future.

“Today, it is two to three times more expensive for shipping to choose a renewable fuel over a fossil, which has so far held back shipping’s conversion. But the competitiveness of renewable alternatives has recently improved through the decision to support Swedish biomethane production. If shipping is also incorporated into the EU’s emissions trading system, the cost differences can be more or less evened out”, says Karl Jivén, project manager at IVL Swedish Environmental Research Institute in a press release.

Together with research colleagues from IVL and Chalmers, he has carried out analyzes of current and planned production capacity for liquid biomethane. The results show that it is quite possible to produce the amounts of liquid biomethane that shipping needs.

In a few years, it is estimated that the need to bunker LBM in Sweden could be 4–5 TWh per year. With a consistent investment, it is possible to more than ten times the current production to 20 TWh per year, by 2045. This requires that the production of biomethane increases by more than 1 TWh per year, corresponding to up to ten new major Swedish biogas plants per year.

“It is an enormous rate of expansion, a gathering of forces for the whole society. But if we manage that, all vessels that bunker LNG in Sweden could choose green already in a few years. That would mean a lot for the conversion of shipping”, says Karl Jivén.

Read the report

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