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Setting zero emission fuel targets

If shipping is to welcome commercially viable deep sea zero emission vessels to the international fleet by 2030, zero emission fuels will need to make up 5% of the global shipping fuel mix by that same year.

Writing in an Insight Brief for the Global Maritime Forum, authors Peder Osterkamp – shipping lead at COP26 Climate Champions, Dr Tristan Smith – reader in Energy and Shipping at University College London, and Kasper Søgaard – head of research at the Global Maritime Forum – state: “Even if the target is a 50% absolute reduction by 2050, this still requires rapid growth of zero carbon fuel use in the 2030s, which requires a similarly small initial use by 2030.”

The 5% goal amounts to close to 16m tons of heavy fuel oil equivalent by 2030.

The authors consider achieving this is feasible on all counts – with regards to fuel supply, vessel technology, port infrastructure, safety, demand, government commitment and finance.

The Getting to Zero Coalition – an industry-led platform for collaboration – has a stated aim of commercially viable zero emission vessels being a scalable reality by 2030. But, recognising the need for a quantified target, the study’s authors have investigated what would need to happen with zero emission fuels by 2030 to achieve that goal.

Building on data from University Maritime Advisory Services’ (UMAS) 2019 study, the authors ascertained the “tipping point” that shipping needs to achieve by 2030. The UMAS study found that to achieve decarbonisation for international shipping by 2050 zero emission fuels will need to make up 27% of energy by 2036. Generating an S-curve to fit the UMAS milestones, the authors were able to set the 5% zero emission fuel adoption rate for 2030 – which will enable decarbonisation in line with the Paris Agreement.

Aiming high

The authors set out plans to enable the sector to reach the 5% target. First, they point to the container ship sector as the likely trailblazer. As here just a few ports/routes account for a large share of volume, efforts to decarbonise 10 of the large deep-sea routes could count for 0.8% of the total 5% needed.

If ammonia is selected as the future zero emission fuel, ammonia and liquefied petroleum gas tankers would also be well suited as first movers as their storage, systems and crew are “well adapted” to this fuel. This is also true for ships used to transport other hydrogen-derived fuels. This could account for up to 2% of the 5% needed.

Then, niche international routes (non-container shipping) that enable first movers of zero emission fuels – such as Chile-US, Japan-Australia, Dubai-Singapore, Australia-Singapore, Denmark-Norway – could provide another 2%. Lastly, domestic shipping could account for another 2%-3%.

The report authors point out that in terms of scalability, hydrogen-derived fuels have the biggest long-term potential for rapid scaling in the following decades and, therefore, “should be a significant part of the 2030 fuel mix”. UMAS has calculated the overall energy need for shipping in 2030 as 12.9 Exajoules; 5% amounts to 0.64 Exajoules, or 15.8 million tons of heavy fuel oil equivalent.

Hydrogen calculations

If the hydrogen-based fuel used is ammonia, roughly 60 gigawatt of green hydrogen electrolyser capacity would be needed to produce that amount, a figure that the authors believe is achievable by 2030 considering the large-scale hydrogen ambitions already announced by leading economies.

These include Australia’s commitment to of more than $500 million to back new hydrogen projects; Chile’s goal of 5 gigawatt of electrolysis capacity under development by 2025; China’s target to support demand for 60 million tons of hydrogen by 2050; and the EU’s 2020 Hydrogen Strategy which includes a strategic objective to install at least 40 gigawatt of renewable hydrogen electrolyzers by 2030 and support production of up to ten million tons of renewable hydrogen by the same year.

But to reach the right quantity and price of green hydrogen, the study recognises that other actions are needed to boost zero emission fuels by 2030. “For example, large scale system demonstrations are needed to showcase feasibility and draw conclusions. Freight purchasers can also give important demand signals by committing to use zero emission fuels where available at a certain premium,” the authors suggest. Also, there needs to be focus on operational efficiency measures and on incentives to adopt zero emission fuels to attract institutional investors.

Setting a clear goal for the percentage of zero emission fuels needed by 2030 to enable decarbonisation in line with Paris Agreement goals brings a number of benefits, including giving energy companies greater confidence in demand when planning green fuel development projects; mobilising cargo owners to pay a premium for zero emission fuels on a corresponding percent of their freight; and allowing investors to quantify the amount of investment needed across the value chain. Added to which, ship owners could plan investments in new builds and retrofits, and regulators could be called on to ensure a level playing field is in place to enable the transition, state the report authors.

A green fuel future beckons, but the foundations need to be laid now to ensure the shipping sector can achieve its carbon free ambitions.
Source: The Baltic Briefing

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