LNG Supply Chains and the Development of LNG as a Shipping Fuel in Northern Europe

On the 1st of January 2020, the global shipping sector will face a highly significant shift in the regulation of sulphur emissions from the consumption of shipping fuel. In preparation for that shift, ship owners have several options for achieving regulatory compliance. These include switching to low-sulphur oil-based fuel, installing ‘scrubbers’ to remove sulphur from exhaust gas, and switching to LNG as a bunker fuel.

Stringent limits on sulphur emissions from shipping have been in place in northern Europe since 2006–07, and these limits were lowered in 2010 and 2015. This stepwise approach mirrors (and indeed foreshadows) the approach seen at the global level, where limits on sulphur emissions were introduced in 2005 and tightened in 2012. The shift in January 2020 will replicate, at a global level, the regional change experienced in northern Europe in 2015.

Northern Europe has seen the most substantial development of LNG as a shipping fuel, in terms of supply (bunkering) infrastructure and the growth of a fleet of vessels powered by LNG. This region therefore represents a valuable case study, through which this paper identifies the main drivers of the uptake of LNG as a shipping fuel, and the extent to which the experience of northern Europe may be repeated at a global level post-2020. The paper concludes that, with the global LNG market expanding and the size of the global LNG-fuelled fleet set to double by 2022, global demand for LNG as a bunker fuel is set to grow significantly.

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By: Jack Sharples

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