David Barrow, VP South Asia, Marine & Offshore, Bureau Veritas
Ships make the world go round: world trade is impossible without them. But one of the biggest challenges is that CO2 emissions per transport work will need to fall by at least 40 percent by 2030, and by 70% by 2050 compared to 2008 if the industry is to meet its ambitious targets. Overall greenhouse gas emissions to be at least 50 percent lower by 2050.
The next decade will be critical for making the necessary research and development investment. Bureau Veritas believes the industry needs to work collaboratively to develop unified approaches and competitive, sustainable and scalable solutions.
This will not be easy.
History shows that transitions take time – it took about 50 years for the motor ship (approximately 1910s-1960s) to make the steamship obsolete. But while past transitions were driven by market forces, the transition of our time will be kick-started by new regulations defining a new playing field. How level that field is remains to be seen. Timing will be vital.
There is no silver bullet when it comes to reducing GHG emissions. The best propulsion solution for a ship will depend on its type, size, and operational profile – speed, cargo, area, and range of operation – amongst other factors.
The industry has a two hundred year history of ship propulsion evolving from wind power via coal-fired steam to fuel oil and, now, gas. The transition from one phase to the next is never sequential, as old and new propulsion technologies have co-existed for lengthy periods. Bureau Veritas believes this pattern will continue going forward to 2030 and beyond, with the industry relying upon multi-pathway propulsion solutions encompassing co-existence of traditional fuel oils (residual, distillate), liquid natural gas (LNG), alternative fuels – including biofuels, liquid petroleum gas (LPG), methanol, hydrogen, ammonia, and synthetic fuels – and batteries.
We also anticipate that different propulsion systems will co-exist on individual ships as a ‘hybridized’ approach can be an enabler for reducing both EEDI and carbon intensity in our time. Recently designed ferries and offshore vessels are equipped with electric-hybrid power systems – they use batteries alongside oil or gas-fueled engines. Furthermore, there is a growing interest in revisiting the past to harness wind power as assisted propulsion sources on merchant ships.
Perhaps the key question to address is what to do TODAY? What options are available to a shipowner right now? The lack of clarity here is one of the reasons for a current low level of new building activity. Additionally, some of the technology signals are misleading. What may be suitable for a small ferry under local regulatory oversight in relatively sheltered waters, with rescue close at hand, may have no relevance for large ships designed for the deep sea and a world-wide range, trading under the requirements of international conventions.
The shipping industry faces some
Big challenges. Innovation and
New technology are going to be
Vital in meeting tomorrow’s needs
Although alternative fuels – such as hydrogen and ammonia – and power systems – such as fuel cells and batteries – may prove to be long-term zero-emission technology solutions for shipping, today they are not ready for large scale deployment and will require huge investment over the coming decades to realise their full potential, both in terms of on-board technology and fuel distribution network.
Moving forward with pragmatism – LNG is a key fuel
LNG is available today and can be, at the very least, a stepping-stone to developing alternative carbon-free and carbon-neutral fuels. While it is a fossil fuel and there are concerns related to methane slip, LNG is clean marine fuel with a well-proven track record and expanding distribution network, which offers a step in the right direction towards lower GHG emissions in general and CO2 emissions in particular. And as methane-based biogas or synthetic (or substitute) gas becomes available in the future, LNG fuelled ships could easily switch to new ‘drop-in fuels’ that are carbon neutral.
An operational response – technology for slower speeds
There are also operational means available to reduce energy demand, whereby slowing down ships is the obvious candidate – a path taken by container ship operators in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. And in all likelihood, slow steaming will be necessary to meet the 2030 carbon intensity reduction ambition of 40 percent. A number of issues need to be addressed though. Firstly, ships need a minimum amount of propulsion power for safe maneuvering in heavy weather. Secondly, although speed reduction leads to a rapid decline in fuel consumption and emissions – the speed-power relationship is approximately cubic – for existing ships designed to operate at higher speeds the associated reduced engine load is likely to increase the specific fuel oil consumption (SFOC) of the engine, while the propeller and auxiliary systems also no longer operate at their design point. Furthermore, the hull form will not be optimized from a resistance point of view. For existing ships, this means that technical modifications to the propulsion train or even the hull – e.g. replacement of bulbous bow or fitting of energy-saving devices – may be necessary to meet the savings objectives.
Designed to go slow
At the same slow steaming provides opportunities for new ships, as both the hull form and the propulsion train can be fully optimized. Over the past decade, ships have become much more energy- efficient. Combining slow steaming with hybridization would enable to optimize designs with more than one single design point, and this could open the door for further energy efficiency improvements going forward.
Any consideration of slow steaming has to be made in the context of the bigger picture of shipping logistics. Slower ships mean that additional ships would be needed to maintain the same cargo throughput. Logistics chains will need to adapt. And this is an important point to consider, especially as international shipping contributes less than 3 percent to global CO2 emissions as reported in IMO’s 3rd GHG study. It is important to acknowledge that we have to consider the entire supply chain when it comes to effectively addressing GHG emissions related to transportation.
Preparing for decarbonization
To prepare for a decarbonized future, the industry needs to invest in research and development to develop the technical means and fuel distribution networks. Collective action is needed. On the fuel side the development of biofuels, hydrogen, ammonia and synthetic fuels produced with renewable energy – “power-to-gas” – is key, while on the power system side work needs to be done on fuel cells and batteries. All these alternative fuels and propulsion solutions need to be considered and explored, which is why Bureau Veritas is working together with industry partners on ambitious pilot projects in order to develop the regulatory framework necessary to support a sustainable future of shipping. There will be difficulties and obstacles to overcome with any of the new technologies.
The key issue is incentives. As shipping can only be a reflection of society, shipping’s ability to evolve will depend on a commercial and regulatory environment that makes the necessary market and structural changes in support of a newer, cleaner world. \
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