Classification Societies Clash on 2050 Bunker Demand Outlook

by Jack Jordan, Managing Editor, Ship & Bunker
Friday May 22, 2020

Two leading classification societies, DNV and the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), have come up with two starkly different visions for how bunker demand might develop in the coming decades -- highlighting widespread uncertainty over how the alternative fuels landscape is set to develop.

The ABS 'Pathways to Sustainable Shipping Report', published earlier this year, presents a bullish case for conventional bunkers, with oil-based fuels retaining 40% of the bunker market in 2050

Ammonia and hydrogen are the second-biggest category in the ABS 2050 forecast with about 35%, LNG is next with about 10% of the market and the rest is split between biofuels, methanol and LPG.

Meanwhile DNV's 'Maritime Forecast to 2050' report, published in September, gives the strongest position in 2050 to LNG with just over 40% of the market in 2050.

Ammonia is next in DNV's 2050 projection with just over 20% of the market. High sulfur fuel oil and VLSFO/MGO both take about 10% of the market, battery power takes about 5% and the remiander is split between synthetic and bio-LNG, hydrogen, bioduesel and LPG.

Cloudy Future

The sharp difference in outlooks reflects the confusing position shipowners are faced with as they decide what kind of ships to buy. If DNV's projection of conventional bunkers retaining not much more than a 20% share of the market in 2050 is correct. a shipowner buying new tonnage in the next few years will need to be concerned about whether VLSFO will be available at most ports by the end of its commercial life. 

It should also be noted that both publications came out before the worst of the coronavirus crisis took effect; this is likely to have complicated matters further, and pushed back decarbonisation plans for some of the more cash-strapped shipowners.

While the picture for the coming decades remains this uncertain, there will be a strong disinclination from less adventurous shipowners against picking anything other than conventional engines for their ships.