Korea maritime researchers name LPG as green alternative ship fuel

Korea maritime researchers name LPG as green alternative ship fuel

Korea Maritime & Ocean University researchers identify liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) as a low-cost and eco-friendly alternative to marine propulsion fuels.

Illustration only; Courtesy of Wärtsilä
Korea maritime researchers name LPG as green alternative ship fuel
Illustration only; Courtesy of Wärtsilä

Although liquefied petroleum gas is a potential eco-friendly alternative, its viability as a maritime fuel has not been assessed so far. Now, a study by researchers from Korea Maritime and Ocean University shows that using LPG could reduce air pollution, is low-cost, and is applicable regardless of ship size.

Specifically, a team of researchers investigated the feasibility of using liquefied petroleum gas as a marine fuel in the study published in the Journal of Cleaner Production. The team, led by Dr. Won-Ju Lee, conducted a statistical analysis of a database of 72,098 ships registered in South Korea.

Given its advantages and market competitiveness, LPG could open doors to zero carbon emission ships. Unfortunately, LPG has found little application so far in the shipping industry and is, therefore, lacking certification.

There is a lack of comprehensive assessment of the economic, environmental, and safety aspects of LPG-based fuel systems worldwide. In our study, we identified ships with South Korean registrations that can be converted to LPG fuel use, and determined the reduction in fuel consumption, cost, and air pollutants from using LPG,” explains Lee.

The findings were encouraging. “Unlike current shipping fuels such as heavy fuel oil, liquefied petroleum gas does not generate marine pollutants during leaks and is applicable without restrictions on the ship size.”

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According to the study’s theoretical estimates, switching to liquefied petroleum gas reduced:

  • the annual fuel consumption by 7.5–10.4 per cent;
  • fuel cost by 8.8–25.9 per cent
  • carbon dioxide emissions by 10–14 per cent;
  • nitrogen oxide emissions by 14–16 per cent;
  • sulfur oxide/particulate matter emissions by 98–99 per cent.

Additionally, the study reviewed the current status of academic research, technological advancement in the area of LPG-fueled engines. It also reviewed the development of market competitors and the safety standards developed by the IMO for establishing international standards for LPG-fueled ships.

The researchers recommended promoting liquefied petroleum gas as an attractive eco-friendly marine fuel by subsidizing its prices and formulating government policies favoring its usage.

“The results of this study could provide a reference for the national shipping industry to inform choices on using environment-friendly and low-cost fuel sources,” says Prof. Lee. “Additionally, constructing LPG propulsion ships would help in making a more reliable estimate of the total cost of LPG retrofit, conversion, and operation..