Experts from around the industry weighed in on shipping’s decarbonised future and the fuels and technologies that may have a role to play in creating it at Riviera’s Maritime Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, Europe virtual conference
Looking at the key benefits of the principal green fuels for fuel cell application currently being adopted by the maritime industry, panellists agreed that shipping’s decarbonised future has room for multiple fuel types and many different fuel technology systems and configurations.
Among the fuels and technologies holding great promise, panellists covered hydrogen, methanol, ammonia, hybridised systems and diesel engines.
MAN Energy Solutions Director New Technologies Kjeld Aabo said his company saw several alternatives in play for the decarbonisation of shipping and that MAN would seek to accommodate them all.
"We do expect there will be a number of different fuels used to reduce the CO2 and greenhouse gas footprint [from shipping]. From our side, we try to provide the technology so we can satisfy whatever fuels will be the future fuels," he said.
In terms of engine design, Mr Aabo said MAN sees fuel and engine technologies and vessel types beginning to segment into some defined combinations.
"Right now, the market for smaller engines is looking into hydrogen where, for the larger, two-stroke engines, it’s more ammonia... It’s about the application. I think it’s very interesting to see what development is currently going on when we come to fuel cells – it is incredible what is happening also for smaller power [systems]."
Ballard director of business development Kristina Fløche Juelsgaard offered broad agreement, calling on the maritime industry to work together to help carbon-beating technologies to mature and be put into more widespread use.
"Some vessel types – small and medium-sized vessels – can easily run on hydrogen. Larger systems, larger ocean-going vessels may run on ammonia and other fuels. There’s room in this huge market for all of us and different applications suit different technologies best," she said.
"From the technology perspective, my key message is the technology is ready and mature to be integrated. The suppliers are lining up. We are still having an issue with the cost, so our primary goal is to drive cost down and to gain all we can from these first sea trials that we are about to enter, to start the optimisation of systems and our products."
Ms Fløche Juelsgaard also said Ballard and its partners would be keen to assess using hydrogen fuel in larger vessels based on its performance in smaller, coastal vessels.
"As for hydrogen, we strongly believe that hydrogen is a serious fuel to address [decarbonisation] in ferries and coastal vessels firstly, and then see how large the hydrogen solutions can become and still be feasible."
Methanol is ready for use as a supplementary fuel that "can be implemented anywhere there is an auxiliary power unit (APU) sailing on the sea", according to Blue World Technologies co-founder and chief operating officer Mads Friis Jensen.
"The fuel cell solution… can be implemented on many vessel types as a supplement to the main engine as an APU solution that can be fitted on smaller or larger vessels. Combining it with a marine battery is obvious in a hybridised system… and the fuel storage and supply system can be used as it already exists today," he said.
Positioning the fuel as a potentially carbon-neutral solution and asked about the fuel’s value in decarbonisation efforts when compared with zero carbon fuels, Mr Friis Jensen said significant carbon reduction is fundamentally a positive for efforts to halt climate change.
"What are we looking at here? Do we want decarbonisation by carbon neutrality or do we want zero carbon – that’s a very, very good question. I would say the climate – as to the temperature changes we are battling – doesn’t really care if it’s zero [carbon] or carbon neutrality. So, the question is not about CO2, it’s about where you derive the fuel from," he said.
University of Strathclyde Maritime Safety Research Centre Research Associate Dr Nikoletta Trivyza said ammonia, too, holds promise in the race to decarbonise.
"Right now, in the shipping industry, we’re all facing the challenges with zero carbon emissions. And it’s a topic that in any transportation mode, anywhere, we have to overcome. And ammonia is a very favourable fuel that, if produced by renewable energy, can become the prime energy source in shipping and a leader in decarbonisation. However, we need to focus on the technology [development] and the current focus for us is to make sure the technology can be safe for the environment and the crew. We are working very hard towards that goal," she said.
Riviera’s Maritime Hydrogen and Fuel Cells, Europe highlights the latest industry intelligence, initiatives and developments in the alternative maritime fuels sector in Europe.