LNG: The Threat to the Arctic from Liquified Natural Gas as a Shipping Fuel
As a member of the “Say No to LNG” campaign, which focuses on raising awareness about the dangers of using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel in shipping, the Clean Arctic Alliance is lending its voice to calling for action to move beyond LNG to truly zero emission alternatives.
Burning LNG as fuel has a direct impact on the Arctic due to the heating effect of CO2 and methane. Although LNG results in lower emissions of CO2 than oil-based fuels, methane – a powerful greenhouse gas – is leaked into the atmosphere at every stage of the production lifecycle including when used by ships. This means that in most cases LNG powered ships are worse for the climate than conventionally fueled vessels – i.e. ships using oil or distillate fuels such as marine diesel.
Although LNG is often touted as a cleaner alternative to other fossil fuels, it is far from it. LNG is mainly methane, with a warming effect 80 times more powerful than CO2 (over a 20 year period), and is one of the biggest drivers of global heating today. Methane emissions are responsible for 25% of global heating and pack a stronger short-term punch than carbon dioxide. Methane emissions from LNG-fueled ships grew by 150% between 2012 to 2018 (Fourth IMO GHG Study).
When burned, LNG releases methane and other pollutants into the atmosphere. In addition, the process of extracting, processing, and transporting LNG results in methane leakage and can have significant environmental impacts, including habitat destruction and water pollution. In some cases LNG is produced through fracking, which has a wide variety of social, environmental and health impacts, especially in North America.
The health and environmental impacts from burning and using LNG are especially concerning in the Arctic, which is warming four times faster than anywhere else on Earth, and where the fragile ecosystem is already under threat from global heating and other human activities.
The Arctic is crucial to regulating the world’s climate and sustaining life on earth. It supports highly productive and diverse wildlife populations and is the home of Indigenous Peoples who depend on a healthy and functioning polar ecosystem.
By Saying No to LNG, we can help protect the Arctic and its inhabitants from the worst impacts of global heating and industrial development. Instead of relying on fossil fuels, the shipping industry should focus on the development of energy-saving practices and technologies, operational measures such as speed reduction, wind propulsion, batteries, zero-emission fuels, and other alternative zero-emission technologies that can deliver air quality and climate benefits.
We urge all shipping companies operating in the Arctic to “Say No to LNG“. Together, we can protect the Arctic for future generations and ensure that this unique and fragile ecosystem remains intact for years to come.
The Clean Arctic Alliance is calling for:
- ships operating in the Arctic to immediately switch from heavy fuels to distillate fuels or cleaner non-fossil fuels in order to cut ship black carbon emissions;
- the shipping industry to focus on the development of energy-saving practices and technologies, wind propulsion, batteries, low and zero-emission fuels, and other zero emission technologies that can deliver air quality and climate benefits; and
- national governments and the fuel and shipping sector to avoid investing in LNG infrastructure that will make it harder for the sector to transition to low and zero emission propulsion and fuels in the future.