September 23, 2015

Environmental trade-offs, opportunities

James Corbett examines the market potential and environmental trade-offs of using natural gas in marine fuels.

(September 23, 2015)  As the maritime shipping industry transitions toward cleaner fuels in response to new environmental regulations and emissions standards, abundant supplies of natural gas in the United States, and worldwide, appear to offer a promising solution in transportation industries.

Natural gas is considered by many to be a 21st century energy resource that will enable multiple sectors, including shipping, to transition away from petroleum fuels. But, questions remain about whether the economic and energy potential benefits include co-benefits for the environment.

The University of Delaware’s James Corbett, a professor of marine science and policy in UD’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment, has spent the past 15 years working to improve environmental policy on global shipping.

In a study published this week in the international journal Energy Policy, Corbett, in partnership with James Winebrake, a professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, and recent UD doctoral graduate Heather Thomson, evaluated whether a transition to using liquid natural gas (LNG) to power marine vessels can reduce both local pollution and greenhouse gas in the marine environment, and whether fueling ships at major ports can help develop the natural gas infrastructure.

Study findings indicate that while using natural gas will reduce emissions in the marine sector, the implications for greenhouse gases depends on how the natural gas is extracted, processed, distributed and used.

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