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Maritime Propulsion

February 23, 2023

MOL Sees Cow Manure as Path to Slash Vessel Emissions

© Oligo / Adobe Stock

Japanese shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL) said it is seeking to use cattle manure as part of its strategy to reduce vessel emissions.

The company announced it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Air Water Inc. to study the use of liquefied biomethane (LBM) derived from cattle manure in vessels fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG).

MOL, which has set a target to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, has been accelerating the deployment of LNG-fueled vessels while taking steps to introduce the use of biomethane and synthetic-methane and also shift to greener alternative fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen.

While the use of LNG fuel can slash vessel carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by about 25% compared to conventional fuel oil, the partial use of carbon-neutral LBM is expected to unlock further reductions, MOL said.

The LBM study will be conducted as part of a technology research and development program approved by Japan's Ministry of the Environment and promoted by Air Water, which produces LBM from cattle manure in Hokkaido's Tokachi region.

The companies will aim to confirm that LBM can be transported, supplied and used without problems using existing shore and onboard equipment, with the ultimate goal to use LBM on one of the MOL Group's coastal LNG fueled vessels in the first half of FY2023. According to MOL, this will mark the first use of LBM as marine fuel in Japan.

LBM is made by liquefying biomethane at about -160°C generated from dairy-owned biogas plants, separating and refining its main component, methane. Methane can be compressed to 1/600th of its volume by liquefying it, so this enables the mass transportation of methane. Being made from cattle manure, it is a carbon-neutral domestic energy source.

In October 2022, Air Water began operating Japan's first LBM production plant, generating an alternative fuel to LNG that effectively uses unused biogas produced from cattle manure. It is also working to supply LBM to food factories and LNG-fueled trucks.