In the first of our Maritime Air Pollution Week webinars, in association with the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA), panellists weighed in on the fuels and technologies that are most likely to make up shipping’s energy mix as the industry decarbonises
Part of our ongoing series of webinars, ’MAP: Climate Change’, looked at the main energy conversion options for ship propulsion in the next 30 years, which fuels will deliver on the industry’s decarbonisation ambitions and whether the marine diesel engine is set to be the industry’s primary power source for the foreseeable future.
Attendees heard from EGCSA director Don Gregory, Clean Shipping Alliance (CSA) director Ian Adams, Langh Ship sales director Eero Pajunen and MAN two-stroke engine specialist Kjeld Aabo.
In his opening remarks, Mr Gregory noted what he saw as the major challenges to the development of commercially viable renewable energy sources capable of delivering consistent and highly energy dense fuel to adequately fulfil the needs of the merchant fleet.
"This is the conundrum for renewable energy..." he said, "the storing of [renewable] energy is highly inefficient, and the options are bulky, high capital cost and challenging. And this is very much the problem for our ships: how do we store vast amounts of energy in a compact form to power our ships?"
"I do not foresee an alternative to the two-stroke marine diesel engine," he said.
Mr Gregory noted that the solution to the conundrum of developing a system that provides adequate power on a global, net-zero carbon basis remained elusive, but suggested emissions trading, ammonia as a fuel and CO2 absorbtion initiatives as potential options.
CSA’s Mr Adams took up the subject of decarbonisation options within the context of agreeing IMO regulations, noting the difficulties involved with agreeing "marketplace measures" for emissions reductions were many and had stymied some of the efforts undertaken by the organisation.
"In 2012, we found ourselves deferring the marketplace measures," he said, noting that the 2015 Paris Agreement set shipping a challenge that led to "where we’re at with shipping, now, is [that] we need to be considering alternative fuels."
According to Mr Adams, the options of LNG, hydrogen, ammonia, biofuels and nuclear propulsion all pose their own challenges.
The primary challenge from the owner-operator standpoint is having a clear regulation to follow in order to make appropriate investments in the technologies that would facilitate using the alternative fuels needed to decarbonise the sector, according to Langh Tech’s Mr Pajunen.
"What we would like to have is a clear road map," Mr Pajunen said. "And clear targets – whether IMO is targeting total zero emissions or some kind of hybrid solution. Because after all we are talking about quite big investments, especially with the newbuilding vessels with a lifespan of maybe 15 to 20 years."
From the manufacturer’s perspective, Mr Aabo said his company MAN Energy Solutions have taken the pragmatic step to support all fuel options in its technological development plans.
"We look at a market that has been regulated for sulphur and now has greenhouse gas (GHG) [regulations] coming in," Mr Aabo said. "The question could be what will be the next step... with all the challenges to fuels the presenters have discussed?"
"The internal combustion engine has, as we see it, no substitute for the moment. It has both the highest thermal efficiency and lowest unburned hydrocarbons and largest range of available fuel types, because nobody really knows what will be the fuel of the future. We believe it will be a palette of fuels."
Those in the webinar audience appeared inclined to agree with Mr Aabo and Mr Gregory’s assessment regarding the longevity of the diesel internal combustion engine in the shipping industry. Asked ’How likely is it that marine diesel engines will continue to be fitted to ocean-going ships into the foreseeable future?’ nearly 75% of attendees rated the likelihood as strong – 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-5.
In terms of the feasibility of nuclear propulsion, exactly 50% of webinar attendees said the development of a compact, modular nuclear energy system should happen with around 35% saying they’d rather it did not come about and 15% remaining on the fence.
You can view the webinar, in full, in our webinar library.
And you can sign up to attend our many upcoming webinars on our events page.
Panellists from left to right: Langh Ship sales director Eero Pajunen, CSA director Ian Adams, MAN two-stroke engine specialist Kjeld Aabo and EGCSA director Don Gregory