Study points way to emission free future

Paul Gunton

30 January 2019

A new joint study aimed at showing a way to meet the IMO’s greenhouse gas 2050 ambitions has been released by Lloyd’s Register (LR) and University Maritime Advisory Services (UMAS).

‘Zero-Emission Vessels Transition Pathways’, aims to show what is needed to enable the transition, both at the ship and supply infrastructure level, to deliver zero-emission vessels (ZEVs) that are crucial to achieve the IMO’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Strategy 2050 ambition. The study demonstrates to all stakeholders what action needs to be taken now.

Zero-Emission Vessels: Transition Pathways is the latest in LR’s series of reports in collaboration with UMAS, looking at fuel and technology trends for the marine industry, aimed at developing new knowledge and tools that can contribute to policy debate. Previous reports include Global Marine Trends 2030, Global Marine Fuel Trends 2030, Global Marine Technology Trends 2030, Low Carbon Pathways 2050 and Zero Emission Vessels 2030.

The latest study seeks to address key questions about ZEVs such as: what needs to happen between now and in the next three decades for ship deployment? And what needs to happen within this period to develop the supply infrastructure? It looks at the key milestones, barriers and enablers over the specified time frame, and considers cost implications, operating profile and how policy measures such as carbon pricing could influence the outcomes.

According to the authors, the ‘Zero-Emission Vessels Transition Pathways’ study indicates that:

  • All pathways explored with the study will achieve the IMO’s ambition of at least 50% reduction in GHG emissions by 2050 and go beyond to show that zero-carbon is possible.
  • 2020 – 2030 is the most significant decade, stressing the urgency for early action.
  • There is still uncertainty when choosing one fuel, one technology and one route and therefore this decade will need to see full-scale pilots and prototypes, the development of policy, standards and rules, and will be characterised by first adopters driven by consumer pressure.
  • Batteries in short-sea markets, or if used as hybrids, and on-shore power supply will play an important role in reducing the dependency on fossil fuels. Easy to store zero or
  • low-carbon fuels (for example sustainable biofuel and methanol) may also be an attractive solution as existing infrastructure and machinery can be used to ease the transition.

During the 2030s, the study suggests the evolution of shipping’s fuel mix is closely linked to the evolution of the wider energy system, so a clear signal needs to be given to the potential fuel producers. In this period the authors ‘expect to see a consolidation of what the dominant technologies for use on board will be and the interactions between end-fuel price, machinery costs and revenue loss will be better understood. We will start to see ships being designed to store less energy on board and changes to their operating profile to bunker more frequently’.

Through to the 2050 date the study says “Although the likelihood of any pathway is difficult to assess, we may experience more than one switch. For example, a growing share of biofuels in the 2020s with on-going efforts to develop fuels produced from Renewable electricity, referred to as electro-fuels, resulting in a major shift to electro-fuels in the 2040s and 2050s. We expect that by 2050, and beyond consolidation of the market, to see an end fuel mix dominated by one family of fuels”.

Previous LR and UMAS studies, Low Carbon Pathways (in conjunction with Shipping in Changing Climates) and Zero-Emission Vessels 2030, have shown that to achieve at least a 50% reduction in CO2 by 2050 and to be on course for a CO2 pathway consistent with the Paris Agreement, ZEVs need to be entering the fleet around 2030. What's more, a significant portion of new-builds will have to be zero emission to compensate for the non-zero emissions of the existing fleet.

“So, by investigating all key energy sources that would allow zero-carbon fuels to enter the shipping fuel market: renewable electricity, bio-energy and fossil fuels with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), our Transition Pathways study supports those who are planning to finance, design or build a ship in the 2020s and who will need to consider how their ships can switch to non-fossil fuel later in its operational life. And for those not directly associated with ship building or operating: the shipping industry must now establish collaborative joint ventures involving the shipping industry partners but also fuel technology companies, equipment manufacturers and energy developers from other industry sectors so we can develop, scale and commercialise the uptake of ZEVs”.

LR’s Global Sustainability Manager, Katharine Palmer said, “2020 – 2030 is the most significant decade and the study stresses the urgency for early action. Scaling up of zero-carbon fuels relies on clarity of the direction taken in the wider energy system. Uncertainty risks delaying important investments within the world’s fleet and infrastructure.”