In Depth: LR: Zero Emission Ships’ Main Challenge Lies in Fuel Storage


The shipping sector recently took a giant leap toward decarbonisation as the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) member states agreed on the requirement which would see the industry reduce its emissions by at least 50 pct by 2050 compared to 2008.

The move, considered as a potentially game-changing development, envisages at least halving the shipping sector’s greenhouse gas emissions over the period, however, without a clear plan of action, many questions have arisen as to how this would be accomplished.

Katharine Palmer, Global Sustainability Manager, Marine & Offshore, Lloyd’s Register, in an interview with World Maritime News said that in order to meet the aim the penetration of zero emission fuels is needed to start around 2030.

“The analysis we have done is showing that internal combustion solutions (with zero emission fuels) may be viable ways to meet zero emissions.”

Katharine Palmer, Global Sustainability Manager, Marine & Offshore, Lloyd’s Register

From the technological point of view, designing and constructing zero emissions ships would not experience a significant change in the machinery, according to Palmer, however the main challenge with zero emission vessels (ZEVs) would be the fuel storage.

“For example, designing and building ammonia or hydrogen storage for fuel, may not require significant modification.”

There are already a range of innovative technologies being piloted and deployed in niche sectors or domestic shipping for example CMB’s Hydroville, which is the first LR classed vessel to use hydrogen to power a diesel engine.

Commenting on the slow development of already introduced green vessel designs, Palmer said that there is a mix of public and private investors exposed to climate risk.

“We would not see at present any reason why the shipping sector is different to any other sector which needs to decarbonise. And therefore, investors and financiers have a significant role to play as their concern is having assets which are resilient to carbon risk and zero emission vessels clearly address this.”

Regarding the potential alternatives which are likely to drive the shipping sector’s decarbonisation, Palmer said that the industry “has seen major transitions in the past from sail to steam to the internal combustion engine, but it is hard to predict the future and we expect to see a diverse range of zero-carbon technologies / fuels deployed across the world’s fleet.”

She explained that Lloyd’s Register is analysing the competitiveness of different solutions and how carbon pricing would influence this, adding that they “will continue to explore the relative commercial viability as further clarity arises from the IMO about likely policy mechanisms.”

Additionally, the cost of decarbonisation is closely linked to the cost of zero emission fuels and although there is a lot of work going on in the shipping sector “we can leverage the wider economy’s efforts to decarbonise.”

As the industry slowly moves to the transition to zero emission vessels (ZEVs), Palmer said that the key is to be able to emulate logistics of today. Therefore the main area of technology development is storage, so not to reduce cargo carrying capacity or any other changes to the operating profile such as more frequent bunkering.

In conclusion, Palmer explained that all stakeholders in the value chain have a role to play, “as we look at how we can produce the fuels, develop the technology for onboard deployment and meet trade demands.”

World Maritime News Staff; Image Courtesy: Lloyd’s Register

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