Japan: First trial of low-carbon LBM derived from biomass completed

Seven Japanese companies have completed the trial using liquefied bio-methane (LBM) derived from cattle manure as a marine fuel on the domestic liquefied natural gas (LNG) fueled vessel Ise Mirai in Ise Bay.


Teaming up on the project were shipping heavyweight Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Air Water Inc., Techno Chubu Company, Kyoudou Kaiun Co., MOL Coastal Shipping, Cenergy Co., and IHI Power Systems Co.

The trial was conducted based on the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between MOL and Air Water in February 2023, with the cooperation of other parties involved, including Japanese shipper JERA.

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In the trial, Air Water supplied LBM produced from cattle manure in the Tokachi region of Hokkaido as part of a technology development and demonstration project adopted by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment. The trial confirmed that LBM can be transported through the existing domestic LNG supply chain. Additionally, truck-to-ship bunkering of LBM can be completed using existing LNG tank trucks.

Furthermore, LBM can be used by existing vessel (Ise Mirai) as marine fuel, according to the partners.

The vessel Ise Mirai was jointly built by MOL Coastal Shipping, Techno Chubu, and Kyoudou Kaiun, and was delivered in December 2020. It is the first LNG-fueled ocean cargo vessel in Japan.

It was built with support from Japan’s Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism under the Model Project for Reducing CO2 Emissions from Ships through the Use of Alternative Fuels aimed at demonstrating the technology to optimize combustion efficiency in LNG-fueled gas engines and supply systems. The goal was to reduce CO2 emissions from ships.

LBM is made with bio-methane generated from dairy-owned biogas plants, liquefied at about -160°C, separating and refining its main component, methane. Methane can be compressed to 1/600th of its volume when liquefied, enabling it to be transported on a large scale. It is also a carbon-neutral domestic energy source because it is made from cattle manure.

According to MOL, LNG fuel is expected to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 25% compared to conventional fuel oil, but further reduction of CO2 emissions can be expected through the partial use of LBM, a carbon-neutral energy source.

In addition, because the main component of both LBM and LNG is methane, the existing LNG supply chains can be used, so LBM can be an effective solution to achieve low-carbon and decarbonized ship operations.