MOL, Air Water to trial liquefied bio-methane onboard LNG-fueled ships

Japanese shipping major Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) has joined forces with compatriot tech company Air Water to jointly study the trial use of liquefied bio-methane (LBM) derived from cattle manure onboard liquefied natural gas (LNG)-fueled vessels.


As disclosed, the partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore LBM’s decarbonisation potential. The joint study will be conducted as part of an LBM technology research and development program approved by Japan’s Ministry of the Environment.

LBM is produced from cattle manure in the Tokachi region of Hokkaido by Air Water. The fuel is made by liquefying bio-methane at about -160°C generated from dairy-owned biogas plants, separating and refining its main component, methane.

Credit: MOL

Methane can be compressed to 1/600th of its volume by liquefying it, so this enables the mass transportation of methane. It is also a carbon-neutral domestic energy source because it is made from cattle manure.

The two companies will confirm that LBM can be transported, supplied, and used without problems using existing shore and onboard equipment.

The goal is to use LBM on the MOL Group’s coastal LNG-fueled vessel in the first half of 2023. This will be the first use of LBM as marine fuel in Japan, according to the company.

Air Water is committed to creating decarbonization solutions and sustainable, locally circulating energy supply models.

In October 2022, the company started the operation of the first plant in Japan to produce LBM, an alternative fuel to LNG that effectively uses unused biogas produced from cattle manure.

Meanwhile, MOL is moving toward decarbonization to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and shifting to greener alternative fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen. The firm is also accelerating the deployment of LNG-fueled vessels while taking initiatives aimed at the early introduction of the use of bio-methane and synthetic-methane.

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 current LNG supply chains can be used, so LBM can be an effective solution to achieve low-carbon and decarbonized ship operations.

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In the future, both companies plan to contribute to the development of low-carbon and decarbonized ocean transport.