As the industry moves away from carbon-intensive heating oil (FO) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there are several alternative fuel options to choose from.

Not all alternatives are optimised for all owners or trades but represent promising short and medium-term “bridge fuels” to comply with tightening IMO mandates on GHG emissions until zero-emissions solutions can be developed.  

Figure: Uptake of alternative fuels for the world fleet as of June 2021 including ships in operation and on order

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  Gas as ship fuel

Gas as ship fuel

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  Methanol as ship fuel

Methanol as ship fuel

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Benefits and technical considerations by fuel type

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Benefits and technical considerations

Benefits and technical considerations

Liquified Natural Gas (LNG)

LNG is considered a mature alternative fuel option. However, there are some technology choices that need to be made depending on specific vessel design and operational requirements.

Benefits of LNG as marine fuel

  • LNG-fuelled vessels can reduce a vessel’s EEDI rating by 20 percent and the corresponding Carbon Intensity Indicator rating by approximately the same amount. 
  • At the same time, improved vessel design and engine technologies can reduce GHGs by up to 25 per cent. And with more bunkering options now available and others planned, LNG represents a good, medium term option to reach compliance. 
  • An LNG fuelled vessel can use lower/zero carbon fuel options like SNG, or biogas with minimal conversion – offering a potential path to decarbonized operations.

Technical considerations

  • Because LNG has a lower volumetric energy density than fuel oil, onboard gas storage requires larger tanks than conventional fuel oil storage to provide the same operational range. 
  • And due to the low temperature of LNG, the tank insulation and required gas handling systems additional space and equipment is required. 
  • Depending on their preferences and priorities, owners can choose between two main types of engine technologies with different characteristics that are now available to the market. 
Benefits and technical considerations

Benefits and technical considerations

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) 

LPG, which is any mixture of propane and butane in liquid form, is a widely available fuel that has recently been introduced as a marine fuel. 

Benefits of LPG as marine fuel

  • Liquified Petroleum Gas combustion results in CO2 emissions that are approximately 15 per cent lower than those of Fuel Oil FO. 
  • When accounting for the complete life cycle, including fuel production, the CO2 savings amount to roughly 17 per cent. 
  • The cost of installing LPG systems on board a vessel is roughly half that of an LNG system. This is because there is no need for special materials for handling cryogenic temperatures. 

Technical considerations

  • Currently only two-stroke diesel engines are commercially available for using LPG as a ship fuel. 
  • Four-stroke engines have also been developed but so far are only used for power generation on shore, not for marine applications.
  • LPG fuelled vessels often install shaft generators to take advantage of LPG for auxiliary engines. 
  • LPG can be stored under pressure or refrigerated, but bunkering options may not always be available in the temperature and pressure range a ship can handle. Therefore, pressurized tanks are typically selected. 
  • The bunkering source and the ship must carry the necessary equipment and installations for safe bunkering. 
  • LPG tanks can also be suitable for ammonia, so long as their pressure rating is appropriate. Engine technology is also quite similar, making LPG designs the easiest to retrofit to utilise ammonia as fuel at a later stage.
Benefits and technical considerations

Benefits and technical considerations


Methanol is the simplest alcohol with the lowest carbon content and highest hydrogen content of any liquid fuel. Methanol can be made available through existing infrastructure in more than 100 ports globally. 

Benefits of methanol as ship fuel

  • Methanol combustion in an internal combustion engine reduces CO2 emissions by approximately 10 per cent compared to FO. 
  • When considering the complete life cycle, including the production of the fuel from natural gas, the total CO2 emissions are equivalent to or slightly higher (ca. 5%) than the corresponding emissions of petroleum-based fuels. 
  • In the future, “green methanol” is likely to become available, with the potential for significantly lower GHG emissions.

Technical considerations

  • There are two main options for using methanol as fuel in conventional ship engines: A two-stroke diesel-cycle engine or in a four-stroke, lean-burn Otto-cycle engine. 
  • Methanol is a liquid fuel and can be stored in standard fuel tanks, but modifications are required to accommodate its low-flashpoint properties to comply with the IMO’s IGF Code.
Benefits and technical considerations

Benefits and technical considerations


Biofuel is a collective term for a range of energy carriers produced by converting primary biomass or biomass residues into liquid or gaseous fuels. While the number of vessels running on biofuels today is relatively small, DNV has identified sustainable biofuels as one of few options available for deep-sea shipping, especially for existing vessels, to achieve the IMO targets.

Benefits of using biofuels

  • Biofuels from advanced processes derived from sustainable feedstocks can achieve substantial GHG reductions while minimizing other effects. 
  • Biofuels can be blended with conventional fuels or used as drop-in fuels as substitutes for conventional fossil fuels. 
  • A drop-in fuel can directly be used in existing installations without major technical modifications, making  them very attractive for existing tonnage.  

Technical considerations

Because biofuels are derived from organic materials, fuel quality can be compromised by microbial growth and oxygen degradation. Also, some liquid biofuels can have poor flow properties in low temperatures. Biofuels are also solvents, so during conversions, operators must flush the fuel system when switching from diesel to biofuel to avoid deposits or clogged filters. Managing these challenges is important to ensure trouble-free operations. 

Benefits and technical considerations

Benefits and technical considerations


Batteries (and hybrid power plants) represent a transformation in the way energy is used and distributed on board vessels. While not yet a viable replacement to FO for deep sea transportation, batteries are increasingly being used for ferries and short sea shipping.  


  • In addition to being emissions free, electric power systems using batteries are more controllable and easier to optimize in terms of performance, safety and efficiency. 
  • As ship power systems become increasingly electrified and battery technology improves and becomes more affordable, new opportunities emerge. 

Technical considerations

  • Batteries produced by different manufacturers use different chemistries, resulting in significant differences in performance. Depending on the vendor, even batteries with the same nameplate chemistry can have very different properties. 
  • Developments in battery technologies are expected to be the result of incremental improvements in terms of cost and performance. 
  • New battery technologies, which would represent a disruptive change for deep sea shipping, may be as much as ten years away.

Need more detailed information and guidance?

Dive in deeper:


Alternative Fuels Online Conference (November, 2022)

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Alternative fuels for containerships

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On-demand webinar: LNG as ship fuel – where are we and what comes next?

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LNG as marine fuel

Environmental performance, market uptake, technologies, services and more


AFI – Alternative Fuels Insight

An open platform that provides the shipping industry with insights to evaluate the use of alternative fuels and technologies



A fully digital and collaborative tool for LNG fuel suppliers and ship owners which allows to plan, execute and communicate about LNG bunkering operations