Carbon neutral fuels and associated infrastructure are needed alongside energy efficiency measures to meet IMO’s 2050 GHG goal, says DNV GL maritime chief executive Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen
"You need more than just a deadline to make dreams come true, you [also] need a plan," said Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen in his keynote address at DNV GL’s launch of the Maritime Forecast to 2050 report, which was a part of London International Shipping Week.
"Thirty years may sound like a long time to sort things out [...] but in an industry famous for playing the long game, with assets that are expected to be profitable for 25-30 years, the pressure is on," he added.
The majority of new vessels in the deepsea segment – which accounts for 80% of shipping’s CO2 emissions – are still built to use traditional fuels, he noted, and risk becoming stranded assets before the end of their normal working lives as 2050 nears. Attaining IMO’s greenhouse gas target of a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions versus 2008 levels will require both investing in energy efficiency, but also fostering the uptake of carbon neutral fuels, which could make up 30%-40% of the fuel mix by 2050, Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen added.
There are two ways a fuel can be carbon neutral, he explained. Fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia and electricity can be ’naturally’ carbon free if produced using renewable energy, or fuels can contain carbon that is sustainably sourced and part of the natural carbon cycle – such as biodiesel and liquid biogas. Fuels in this latter category could comprise between 40% and 80% of the global fuel mix by 2050, DNV GL estimates in its Maritime Forecast to 2050.
However, said Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen, infrastructure and distribution networks must be developed for carbon netural fuels, and while owners may be reluctant to commit to a fuel without infrastructure in place, suppliers may be reluctant to commit to investing in such infrastructure without assurances of demand. He noted that large liner companies trading large volumes on fixed routes may be able to offer suppliers such assurances and could potentially contribute to shaping the fuel mix, though operators may have to be flexible in their choice of fuel.
Class has a key role in developing the low carbon future, he said, by facilitating rules and standards to ensure safety of lives, assets and the environment, by researching new technologies, and by providing tools and barometers to measure the effectiveness of fuels.
The road to decarbonisation will require shipping to demonstrate adaptability, the ability to bounce back and perseverance, Mr Ørbeck-Nilssen concluded.