Four Steps to Reducing Carbon

Updated 5 Sep 2019

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In April this year, the IMO announced ambitious targets for decarbonising the business of shipping. It will target a 50% reduction in the overall fleet’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared to the base year of 2008 and pursue a total phase out of greenhouse gas emissions by the end of this century. Further to this, agreement was reached to reduce the specific emissions per transport work by 40% in 2030, and by 70% in 2050.

Wärtsilä has welcomed this agreement, considering it to be an important milestone for global shipping. Having an industry-wide framework for reducing emissions is a critical step, which sends a clear signal that carbon-neutral shipping should be promoted by all industry players. The next extremely important step must be for the industry and decision-making bodies to define concrete abatement measures, and to establish a clear roadmap.

In gauging how realistic the defined targets are, it is important we realise that there still is a significant amount of efficiency to be gained in the business of shipping already today. Wärtsilä has recently launched its smart marine vision and the connected SEA20. This ‘oceanic awakening’ global movement is focused on the radical transformation of the world’s marine and energy industries into one supremely efficient, ecologically sound, digitally connected, and collaborative ecosystem. SEA20 is an international forum for the world’s foremost Smart and Ecologically-Ambitious marine cities, dedicated to making this happen.

If we focus on ship owners, what can they do to contribute to the goals and align themselves for compliance in the years to come?

It is important to note that there is no single silver bullet to meet the goals. Instead, ship owners would do well to take a four-step approach to achieving higher efficiency and lower emission levels already today.

Step 1

Optimisation of ship and fleet operations is an essential first step. Optimum efficiency results from having vessels as fully utilised as possible, and sailing at the lowest feasible speeds on the most efficient routes. Wärtsilä can support operational optimisation for individual ships and entire fleets with the necessary products and integrated solutions, as well as with crew training and ship traffic control. Wärtsilä’s recent acquisition of Transas has added important technologies in these areas. Transas is a global market leader in marine navigation solutions.

Step 2

Reduce the vessel’s energy need. Technology should be utilised to determine precisely the amount of energy needed for a vessel to reach its destination. This includes new and optimised propulsion systems, propulsion energy saving devices, such as Wärtsilä’s EnergoPro family of products.

Many of these technologies can be profitably retrofitted already today. Furthermore, hull, ballast and trim optimisation are important steps in helping improve overall vessel efficiency. Here again, Wärtsilä has a role to play by helping ship owners to determine which options make the most sense for their operations, while also providing the appropriate technology, including performance guarantees if so required. Utilising energy from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and wave energy, should also be considered. Looking beyond retrofits, technologies such as air lubrication, and designing for low superstructure aerodynamic drag can help reduce the energy need of newbuilt vessels.

Step 3

Enable onboard power distribution and re-use by implementing smart system layouts and Hybrid technology. Here, we aim to efficiently distribute and re-utilise the ship’s energy flows. Hybrids and battery storage have a big role to play, as could waste heat recovery. They also enable zero emission operations, which not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions, but also improves the air quality in ports.

For vessels with a mission profile which allows for it, full battery electric operation can be an option that is profitable, either today or in the foreseeable future. Such vessels can include tugs, short distance ferries, and inland waterway vessels. The Wärtsilä HY system combines the vessel’s driveline components through a fully integrated Energy Management System (EMS) – the ‘brain’ of the system. This controls the energy flows between the different power sources, and connects to the onboard navigation system, enabling an entirely new level of onboard interaction. Where shore-based generation is used to charge batteries, care will need to be taken that the electricity used comes from renewable sources. Otherwise, the greenhouse gas emissions will simply be moved from the vessel to a shore-based power plant.

Step 4

Utilise efficient power generation with carbon neutral fuels. The final piece of this puzzle is to generate the energy still needed on board with fuels having the highest efficiency and which are carbon neutral, such as sustainable biofuels, synthetic hydrogen-based fuels, or hydrogen directly.

However, we must not forget the need to achieve the lowest possible lifecycle cost and the best fuel flexibility. Alternative solutions to engines will no doubt arise, but for a combination of cost, reliability, flexibility and efficiency, engines remain the best option and are likely to remain so for some time yet. It should be mentioned that Wärtsilä’s current engine portfolio can already utilise many different biofuels, synthetic fuels, and even hydrogen and methane blends.

Project Forward, led by Athens-based Arista Shipping, with Wärtsilä as one of the participants, can act as an example of what can be done already today. It demonstrates that with LNG as fuel, an advanced hull design, and highly efficient propulsion machinery, it will be possible to meet the IMO’s target for a 40% reduction in carbon intensity by 2030.

Model tests of the Project’s concept vessel indicate that the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) is well below the currently most stringent Phase III level. The EEDI reflects the CO2 emissions per transport work and is a measure of carbon intensity.

The IMO has also announced that efforts should be made for a further reduction in CO2 emissions per transport work of up to 70% by 2050. One commonly discussed way to reach such reductions has been to limit the propulsion engine power, but this would require a significantly lower service speed, resulting in a serious impact on the logistics chain.

Project Forward shows that this 70% reduction in CO2 emissions target can be met, even without lowering service speeds, through the use of carbon neutral fuels mixed with LNG. Such carbon neutral fuels can be transported, stored, and consumed in a similar way to that of fossil LNG.

All this means that vessels built with Wärtsilä technologies today will be capable of meeting and exceeding the targets of tomorrow. Starting with LNG as the ship’s fuel today provides a good stepping stone towards the utilisation of bio- or synthetic methane, which is much easier to store and handle than hydrogen, safer to utilise than ammonia, and cheaper to produce than liquid synthetic fuels. Coupled with state-of-the-art Wärtsilä engines, methane makes for a clean carbon neutral power generation choice that is able to follow changes in sourcing the fuel (be it renewable from hydrogen tomorrow or fossil today) whilst providing worry free, mature and efficient power.

Today, the marine industry suffers from intense global competition that drives cost down and tends to diminish the focus on sustainability. Ship operators that invest in clean solutions, therefore, have to count on fuel savings to recover the extra investment. One can hardly call this an incentive. Driving the energy transition in general requires more financial support. World leaders’ today advocate putting a price on carbon emissions to support decarbonisation. For shipping,

Norway has introduced an NOx fund that takes tax money from ship operators to support green investments in shipping (those that reduce NOx emissions). Within Wärtsilä, we have started to work on Carbon Credits, which are issued when proof of CO2 reductions is evident (1 carbon credit is one ton of CO2 reduced). These credits can be sold on the free market. However, the value is not guaranteed, and it fluctuates at low levels. Improvements to the elements of the system that develop positive incentives is ongoing. This, however, requires solid support from financial institutions.

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