Fuel Flexibility Is Key for Shipping’s Lower Emissions Goal

ShippingIllustration; Source: Pixabay under CC 2.0 license

One of the key components to meet the shipping industry’s decarbonization aims is fuel flexibility, according to a recent report from DNV GL.

This year’s Maritime Forecast to 2050 report focused on the challenge of reducing the carbon intensity of the global fleet to meet the ambitious targets set by the IMO’s greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) strategy.

Remi Eriksen, Group President and CEO of DNV GL, said that existing technology “can deliver the future we desire – including meeting the 1.5°C target set out in the Paris Agreement.”

However, support for the energy transition has been too sporadic so far.

“We need a broad and coordinated policy agenda that supports new technologies as they emerge and sustains that support through the build-out phase,” Eriksen added.

The Maritime Forecast to 2050 analyses three regulatory scenarios (continuing under current policies, regulations becoming gradually stricter, or very strict regulations introduced towards the end of the 2050 deadline) and how these could affect the transition to low and carbon neutral fuels. Improvements in general energy efficiency in on-board operations is also included as an essential part of reducing emissions.

Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO of DNV GL – Maritime, explained that fuel flexibility is crucial, “as the fuels of today may not be the fuels of tomorrow.”

“This means having a picture of the entire fuel ecosystem is vital, as owners, operators, and the industry itself will have a much tougher time adapting to a low-carbon future if they are locked into a single choice.”

Fuel flexibility and technologies to bridge changing fuel usage have been identified as essential strategies for both individual owners and the shipping industry to adapt to the energy transition and prepare for a low carbon future.

In the deep-sea segment especially, dual-fuel solutions and alternative fuel “ready” solutions could smooth this transition, by laying the groundwork for a future retrofit.

Combined with bridging technologies such as adaptable storage tanks, onboard systems and shore-side fuel infrastructure, this could give the industry more options as new fuels and technologies emerge, DNV GL said.

“Ships built today will have to compete with vessels coming onto the market in five, ten or 15 years’ time, and must consider future standards to remain competitive,” said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen.

“Considering the uncertain future that lies ahead, failing to be future-proof in the newbuilding phase could lead to that asset being stranded in the not so distant future. In addition, CO2 emissions could become an important rate differentiator and we have already seen forward-looking charterers start down this road.”

The forecast shows that the uptake of low-carbon and carbon-neutral fuels is essential to meeting IMO GHG goals, with carbon-neutral fuels having to supply 30–40% of the global fleet’s total energy by 2050.

Under different regulatory pathways, however, the model predicts that a variety of fuels could come to the fore. In all of the pathways, liquefied methane (from both fossil and non-fossil sources) provides a large part (40–80%) of the fuel mix at 2050. The forecast also suggests that in the deep-sea sector, ammonia, biodiesel, liquid biogas and electrofuels are promising carbon neutral options, with battery, hybrid, and hydrogen solutions being potential options for the short-sea segment.

The ongoing energy transition is starting to reshape the shipping industry, with much uncertainty on the way to 2050.

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