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Most shipowners have no decarbonisation strategy

Decarbonisation is repeatedly presented as the shipping industry’s biggest challenge. Some companies and countries have began taking steps towards this end. Japan, for instance, unveiled plans earlier this year to have a zero-emissions vessel in 2028. But a recent survey from ABS found most individual shipowners do not have decarbonisation strategies for their fleets

Most shipowners see hydrogen and ammonia as the favorite fuels of the future. Relatively better prices may be a part of that thinking

AMMONIA and hydrogen are the most viable long-term options for shipping, according to shipowners, many of whom say they have no decarbonisation strategies in place.

Almost 60% of shipowners see hydrogen and ammonia as the best long-term fuel options, a survey by the ABS showed.

“When asked which fuel is most likely to be adopted in the near term, 70% selected fuels in the light gas pathway, which includes liquefied natural gas in the short term and hydrogen as a future solution,” ABS said in a statement.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents said they have no decarbonisation strategy in place.

This finding comes at a time when larger shipping companies are signing up to decarbonisation initiatives, including a pledge to develop commercially viable zero-emissions vessels by 2030, and when shipping leaders are claiming it to be the industry’s biggest challenges.

The International Maritime Organization has committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least 50% by 2050 compared with 2008.

Though operational efficiency optimisation and technical improvements to the existing fleet are expected to help, the consensus is zero-carbon fuels and technologies will be necessary to take the industry to that point.

One reason for the popularity of hydrogen and ammonia compared to other alternatives may be their relatively better price expectations.

DNV GL has forecast that in 2030 electricity-based hydrogen gas will be almost three times more expensive than 0.1% marine gasoil, based on 2019 MGO prices.

Ammonia, meanwhile, would be just over three times more expensive and liquefied hydrogen slightly more expensive than ammonia. Products such as methane and liquefied methane will be more expensive, while synthetic diesel is expected to be the most expensive of all.

“This is presumably the reason why direct hydrogen and ammonia have this big interest at the moment as a possible future fuel,” DNV GL principal researcher Torsten Mundt said during a webinar on Wednesday.

The production method of shipping’s zero-carbon fuel candidates is becoming an increasingly focal point, with several observers arguing it is just as important as the end itself. Renewable products should also be produced renewably, the argument goes. The aim is to have zero emissions across the life cycle rather than just during the combustion.

This point has given rise to the description of emissions-free fuels as blue, when they are produced through a carbon-neutralising process, often through carbon capture storage, or green, where they are created through renewable sources and completely emissions-free processes.

“Therefore, we need criteria and the policy makers need to be aware that we cannot allow to use fossil sources to create so-called alternative fuels if they are not under control and under the blue state,” said Mr Mundt.

Regulators at the IMO are considering guidelines for the industry on how to measure fuels’ life cycle emissions.

One of the countries most openly supportive of hydrogen as a fuel of the future across the economy has been Japan.

Earlier this year, the Japanese government unveiled its road map to zero emissions from international shipping under which it expects the first zero-emissions vessel to come on the water in 2028 to be further scaled up.

The Japanese government envisions two different fuel compositions in 2050 for the shipping industry to meet the IMO’s 2050, depending on the advancement of hydrogen and ammonia ship technology, infrastructure and fuel supply chains.

If those do not develop considerably, Japan anticipates that 75% of energy consumption in international shipping in 2050 will be supplied by LNG fuels, carbon-recycled methane, or biomethane fuels and only 10% will be by hydrogen or ammonia fuels. Around 20% of the LNG-fuelled ships are also expected to have carbon capture storage technology on board.

In the scenario where the conditions are there for hydrogen and ammonia, Japan claimed shipping could reach the 2050 goal with these fuels accounting for approximately 45% and LNG fuels for some 35% of energy consumption of the international fleet in 2050.

Under this projection, carbon-recycled methane or biomethane fuels would make up for around 7%, and nearly 5% of the fleet will introduce onboard CO2 capturing.

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