Photo: NMA

NMA proposes use of biogas as part of fjord renewable energy transition

The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) has proposed new regulations regarding emissions of the greenhouse gases carbon dioxide and methane in the world heritage fjords and the use of biogas to reduce harmful emissions.

Throughout the proposal, the NMA has defined which greenhouse gases should be banned by 1 January 2026 and thus be included in the definition of “zero emissions”.

Specifically, the NMA has chosen not to impose an absolute ban on greenhouse gas nitrous oxide (N2O). One reason for that is that the use of ammonia and hydrogen in internal combustion engines may lead to reduced nitrous oxide emissions.

However, to give regional authorities and other affected parties a realistic opportunity to adjust and adapt to the new requirements, a transitional arrangement is being proposed, permitting the use of biogas under certain circumstances.

Specifically, the proposal allows the use of biogas for ships of 10,000 gross tonnage and upwards in a transitional period up until 31 December 2035.

“It has been important for the NMA to stand by the requirement from the Storting to achieve zero emissions in the world heritage fjords by 2026. We want to be a driving force for the green development, and we believe that the industry will succeed,” said Director General of Shipping and Navigation Knut Arild Hareide.

The NMA has been working on the assignment since March 2022. According to project manager Henrikke Roald, it has been challenging to maintain the balance between a requirement for zero emissions on the one hand with, on the other hand, the wish to facilitate future port calls.

The proposed legislation must be viewed in the context of the EU’s climate package “Fit for 55”, which aims to reduce emissions by at least 55% by 2030.

Many of the proposed measures will also apply to the shipping industry, including the new FuelEU Maritime regulation to increase the demand for alternative fuels in the maritime industry, and the proposed amendments to the Renewable Energy Directive on sustainability criteria for biofuels. Read more about this in the comments to the proposed provision.

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In 2018, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from ships.  

The IMO is currently in the process of revising its existing climate strategy, which aims to only halve emissions from ships by 2050.

The Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 79) met on 12-16 December 2022, with negotiations set to continue in a technical working group in spring 2023 (ISWG-GHG-14) and to conclude at MEPC 80 in July 2023. The UN’s organisation failed to adopt a concrete shipping decarbonisation target.

Civil society groups, several countries as well as influential IMO observers—the World Bank, Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Centre, the Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)—are also calling for an additional, ambitious absolute emission reduction target for 2030.

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The ongoing EU and IMO work is expected to have an impact on the legislation proposed by NMA in the regulatory amendments.