Danish ferry and logistics operator DFDS has identified ammonia, hydrogen and methanol as the fuels with the most potential to work in shipping as part of a long-term decarbonisation goal
DFDS’ new climate action plan targets reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 and becoming carbon neutral by 2050.
“That is our deadline. 2050 seems like an eternity away, but in an industry where a ship’s lifetime is about 25 years, the ones we purchase just five years from now will have a decisive effect on our ability to achieve our climate goals,” DFDS head of innovation and partnerships Jakob Steffensen said.
A statement from the ferry operator noted that climate-neutral technology and alternative fuels are still in their infancy, and conclusions on where the business is headed are not clear cut, Mr Steffensen said that some are more sophisticated and market-ready than others.
DFDS said it is cautious about choosing a fuel this early because of unknown factors, too.
“What if the aviation industry goes for methanol, too? How can we know there is enough to go around for everyone and that the price does not skyrocket? We do not want to end up in a situation where the shortage of some of the elements we need for our fuel trigger a ’who is willing to pay most’ competition between aviation and shipping, for instance. We need to keep investigating and assessing results on an ongoing basis before we make decisions that cannot be unmade,” Mr Steffensen said.
Instead, DFDS has identified it has until 2026/27 to make a qualified choice of which fuels and vessels to go for.
Mr Steffensen said “there is very little out there that you can buy off the shelf, put into your business and voilà – you reduce emissions. By doing joint investigative projects, we can go deep into theories and test them, without committing to specific technologies or equipment. And that is where we are now: investigating, trying, testing.”
In addition to partnerships and joint ventures, the Innovation & Partnerships team is involved in a hydrogen factory in Copenhagen and has the Ark Germania roro test vessel where it will test fuel cells.
DFDS also plans to introduce small amounts of methanol in the existing propulsion machinery in many of its vessels. Together with onsite-produced hydrogen, methanol will be injected into combustion chambers, replacing up to 10-15% of the heavy fuel oil needed to fuel the same voyage today.
While this technology is still being developed, the company expects an approval from engine manufacturers this year.