The ability of maritime transport to meet decarbonization goals seems both extremely easy and very difficult. Short-term regulations seem achievable while the 2050 limits seem potentially more ambitious than credible targets, leaving shipping in a precarious position to balance these competing challenges, and in a short period of time.
The International Maritime Organization agreed in its initial 2018 greenhouse gas reduction strategy to reduce the carbon intensity of the global fleet by 40% from 2008 levels by 2030 and to reduce carbon emissions. greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2050.
There had been talk of IMO reducing greenhouse gas emissions from 50% by 2050 to 100%, but delegations to the 77th session of the Committee for the Protection of the Marine Environment, which met held November 22-26, voted not to adopt a resolution.
2050 may seem far away, but calculated in years of sailing and purchases of ships bought later, that decade may well still be sailing the seas when that day comes.
The industry has certainly tried to clean up its law. The shift from high sulfur fuel oil to the IMO’s global low sulfur mandate that began on January 1, 2020 has shown the ability to cope with the energy transition, by drastically eliminating the sulfur content of fuel – either through scrubbers or very low sulfur fuel oil – was the priority.
There have been only 59 reports of fuel oil non-availability, or FONAR, received by IMO under Annex VI of the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), between the January 1, 2020 and March 1, 2021, IBIA Director Unni told Einemo at an event hosted by S&P Global Platts recently. This indicates that initial apprehensions about the availability of compliant fuels were misplaced and that refiners quickly adjusted their crude list to meet the growing demand for cleaner fuels.
And the 2030 goals don’t seem too ambitious either. Efficiency improvements have already done a lot to improve emissions. As total maritime trade has grown over the past decade, the sector’s emissions intensity has declined due to larger vessels, design improvements, technology upgrades, and slower shipping.
The energy efficiency design index, aimed at reducing CO2 emissions by reflecting the energy efficiency of a ship in actual use, and the ship energy efficiency management plan to measure and control emissions of GHG emissions from the existing maritime fleet are targeted for this purpose.
In fact, the changes to MARPOL Annex VI are due to come into effect on November 1, 2022, with the Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index, or EEXI certification requirements, coming into effect on January 1, 2023.
The new regulations will require existing ships to improve their efficiency roughly to be in compliance with the Energy Efficiency Design Index, or EEDI, for new ships today. To facilitate this transition, BIMCO, one of the largest international shipping associations representing shipowners, recently said it has published an EEXI transition clause for use in existing and future time charters.
“In addition to EEXI, we are also developing clauses for Emissions Trading Systems (ETS) and Carbon Intensity Indicators (CII) regime to meet future industry challenges.” Soren Larsen, deputy general secretary of BIMCO, said in a statement. December 7.
The use of low-carbon alternatives such as LNG, LPG and methanol are also being explored to help the industry meet this decade’s goals.
Switzerland-headquartered WinGD, a developer of low-speed gasoline and diesel engines for marine propulsion, said in a December 9 white paper that using LNG was one of the most important ways to reduce emissions from current ships and allow the use of synthetic gas or carbon neutral biogas when available.
“Acting now is the right choice, because it will not be enough to wait for the availability of clean fuels,” he said.
Most of the LNG carriers ordered are fueled by LNG. It’s a similar story for the GPL. The largest number of vessels for methanol powered vessels is for dual fuel engine tankers.
But while the use of low-carbon options appears to help the industry comply with regulations for now, they fail to deliver long-term carbon intensity reduction and zero emissions targets. , which will require a major shift to alternative fuels and technologies.
About 85% of the sector includes deep sea shipping, which is much more difficult to decarbonize given the high density fuels they use, expensive renovations and longer lifespans.
The International Energy Agency said in a May report that ammonia and hydrogen must be the main marine fuels if the net zero target is met by 2050, accounting for around 60% of the market, ammonia to supply 45% of ships. in a net-zero 2050.
The high energy density of alternative fuels is essential for their use in large ocean-going vessels. Liquid ammonia and liquid hydrogen have an energy density of about 30% and 22%, respectively, relative to HSFO. This translates to approximately 3.3 and 4.5 times storage requirements. However, the storage of hydrogen on board becomes an even bigger problem given the space needed and the heavy tanks required and thus limits sea voyages over long distances.
Methanol and ammonia offer more practical solutions as they offer more accessible storage and transport options, and there is more experience in handling these materials. But the immediate uptake of ammonia is hampered by its source and the future cost of green ammonia.
The bottom line is that in addition to energy densities and storage considerations, future technological growth will determine the choice of clean fuels. And no technology is currently commercially available on a sufficiently large scale.
However, looking at the merits, clean methanol and liquid ammonia still have some advantage over liquid hydrogen due to higher density, reduced bulk on board, favorable handling temperatures, easier storage in the bunkers and a long experience of handling.
For large ships with long routes, the shipping industry may start to switch to gray methanol in the short term and switch to green methanol from hydrogen in the longer term. This can increase costs due to engine modifications, but can pay off in the longer run.
Fuel flexibility remains vital, with hybrid ships and propulsion systems likely becoming a key tool in unlocking both the benefits of reduced fuel consumption and reduced emissions.
Web of complexity
Then there is also a catch: investing now in a particular fuel option reduces costs around infrastructure but increases demand and therefore the price of fuel.
But much depends on the demand for clean maritime transport, a favorable policy and regulatory environment, investments in renewable production of methanol, ammonia and hydrogen and even competition from other transport sectors for solutions. similar alternatives. It looks like the jet is focusing on biofuels and cars around electric vehicles, but if the economy and availability change, there could be more competition in the shipping space. After all, shipping has traditionally taken the “bottom of the barrel” in terms of oil and it remains to be seen whether a similar situation will occur with alternative fuels.
Global cooperation between the various maritime players – shipowners, shipyards, engine manufacturers, fuel producers and distributors, classification societies, charterers, port authorities – is imperative to achieve the objectives of decarbonising maritime transport.
In Asia, Singapore, the world’s largest bunkering port, is promoting cleaner fuel initiatives with the creation of a Global Center for Maritime Decarbonization, the last feather in its cap. The center, set up with a S $ 120 million ($ 88.7 million) fund from the Singapore Maritime and Port Authority, with six founding partners, will spearhead the industry’s energy transition. maritime.
Other Asian ports such as Japan, China, and South Korea are also encouraging cleaner fuel options, including LNG.
Banks and financiers are also essential to this transition. The Poseidon Principles, intended to enable financial institutions to align their financial portfolios with responsible environmental behavior, and the Maritime Freight Charter, a framework for assessing and disclosing the climate alignment of vessel charter activities in the world, are welcome developments. However, their benefits will take some time to fully unfold, especially since these are voluntary initiatives.
From short term goals to constantly evolving long term goals, from short trips to ocean shipping on the high seas, from tankers to container ships, from ports and bunkering to on-board storage, getting the specifics of the supply chain for different parts of the industry be crucial. Never before has shipping faced such an intimidating network of solutions to meet its diverse and competing needs, but never again has it needed a single voice.
He is beginning to find that voice, but that voice must resonate unanimously and quickly to be the spearhead of this transition.