Faced with a multi-fuel future, ship operators need to consider the most flexible, efficient prime mover – the dual-fuel engine
The internal combustion engine has been a stalwart for the last century and it still has a role to play in shipping’s decarbonisation, burning the future fuels that will get us to the ultimate goal of net-zero carbon emissions.
While each operator will pick the fuel that provides the best business case for their operation and vessel type based on product availability, price, technology and infrastructure, what is clear are those choices will be low-carbon and carbon-neutral fuels. Such fuels are the only way to meet IMO’s goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050 as compared with 2008, and ultimately eliminating CO2 emissions all together before the end of the century.
With more than 1Bn tonnes of CO2 emissions generated by shipping annually, it is a tall order, but one that shipping can accomplish.
In my 30+ years of covering the maritime industry I have never seen anything like the current level of collaboration that is occurring across the industry – a real indication of the complexity of decarbonisation and challenge of climate change. No organisation should go it alone. I would encourage everyone to seek out partners inside and outside the industry.
In the decade ahead, the fuel choices for shipping will continue to grow and while coalitions have taken up research and development around building supply chains for ammonia and hydrogen as marine fuels, do not count out LNG, methanol, biofuels and their synthetic versions. Electrification and fuel cells paired or used as standalone propulsion options might make perfect sense for your operations. Why not use batteries on a coastal ferry operation if your shoreside power is provided by renewable energy? The important consideration is not to shift CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions from your marine operation to the shoreside.
Not to be left out of the conversation is ship-based and shoreside carbon capture and storage (CCS). While shoreside carbon capture is well proven, ship-based CCS faces several challenges, but those can be overcome. Ship-based CCS can be used as a bridging technology, allowing the use of fossil and low-carbon fuels to lower CO2 emissions, while regulations, training, supply and infrastructure is developed for zero-carbon fuels.
As Conoship International director of development Guus van der Bles noted during Riviera Maritime Media’s How ship-based CCS supports the transition to future fuels webinar, when you add ship-based carbon capture to the mix, LNG “is a good starting fossil fuel.” With LNG, you can reduce NOx emissions now by about 80–85%, CO2 emissions by 20-25%, and virtually eliminate SOx and particulate matter.
Using ship-based carbon capture technology, CO2 from an LNG-fuelled vessel could be used to produce e-fuels or synthetic methane in a closed carbon loop, continuously reusing and capturing carbon before it is released into the atmosphere. That’s big.
In early July, Alfa Laval and Japan’s National Maritime Research Institute tested onboard carbon capture using an exhaust gas cleaning system, while K-Line reported that a small-scale carbon-capture plant was installed on one of its coal carriers as part of a demonstration project in August.
While widespread implementation of ship-based CCS might be five years away, opting for a dual-fuel engine now will pave the way for the multi-fuel future, future-proofing your investment and ensuring you can do your part in decarbonising shipping and meeting the challenge of climate change when zero-carbon fuels become available.
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