To meet IMO’s ambitious targets for reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40% by 2030 and 50% by 2050 compared to 2008, international shipowners must choose their path to decarbonisation
This starts with selecting lower carbon-intensive and zero carbon fuels. While traditional marine fuels will be part of shipping’s landscape for years to come, these five fuels – LNG, LPG, methanol, hydrogen and ammonia – are emerging as clear winners in the clean energy transition.
LNG as a fuel has emerged as the ‘best option available today’, cutting CO2 emissions by 25% and offering shipowners a path to carbon-neutral bioLNG and zero-carbon fuels green hydrogen and ammonia.
Over the past five years, the operational LNG-fuelled fleet has grown from 70 vessels in 2015 to 177 vessels in 2020, with another 230 on order or under construction.
Underpinning that growth is a maturing LNG bunkering infrastructure in Asia, Europe and North America.
If there was a breakthrough fuel of 2020, it was liquefied petroleum gas. Led by the historic transpacific voyage of the world’s first LPG-powered, dual-fuel very large gas carrier BW Gemini completed in December, with more retrofits and newbuilds on the way.
Using LPG-powered engine technology, LPG carriers can reduce fuel consumption by 10%, SOx emissions by 99%, particulate matter emissions by 90%, CO2 emissions by 15% and NOx emissions by 10% when compared with conventional compliant fuel.
Wide availability, easy handling and storage and recent adoption of IMO interim guidelines as a marine fuel have all increased methanol’s attractiveness to shipowners as a pathway to decarbonisation.
Methanol can reduce in-sector CO2 emissions by up to 15% when compared to conventional marine fuels. One shipowner at the forefront is Waterfront Shipping, which has 11 methanol-powered tankers in operation, and has ordered eight others from Hyundai Mipo Dockyard (HMD) for delivery between 2021 and 2023.
DNV GL recently awarded an AiP to HMD for a methanol-powered product tanker design.
Japan is building a hydrogen supply chain, including the first LH2 carrier, and several newbuild and retrofit projects are underway in the US, Asia and Europe, led by the hydrogen-powered passenger car ferry Hydra, a hydrogen-powered tug Hydrotug, and even a hydrogen fuel cell-powered container vessel. Promising total CO2 emissions-free operation, hydrogen still presents technical and operational challenges, including storage, handling, availability and cost.
Ammonia is seen as frontrunner in the future fuels race as it contains no carbon, is easy to store and transport, and is an efficient hydrogen carrier. Drawbacks are its relative low energy density and toxicity. Production would have to be scaled up massively to meet shipping’s needs for green hydrogen, produced by renewable, or blue hydrogen, produced using carbon capture and storage.
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