Ammonia and hydrogen are promising future fuels, finds IMO symposium

Ammonia and hydrogen are promising future fuels, finds IMO symposium

Ammonia and hydrogen are promising fuels of the future to decarbonise shipping, an IMO symposium on sulphur 2020 and alternative fuels heard last week.

In order to meet the IMO’s target of cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 50 per cent by 2050 from a 2008 baseline, the shipping industry must look to alternative low and zero carbon fuels for propulsion. Dr. Tristan Smith, reader, UCL Energy Institute believes that hydrogen-based fuel of some sort is the answer. The potential for hydrogen- and ammonia-based fuels to take over from fossil fuels for ship engines by 2050 was echoed by Mr. Tore Longva, principal consultant, DNV GL; and Ms. Alexandra Ebbinghaus, maritime strategic project lead, Shell Trading and Chair, GloMEEP-Global Industry Alliance. Key issues for these new fuels include speed of uptake and scaling of production.

Malaysia’s Kanagalingam T. Selkvarasah, maritime attache, outlined Malaysia’s commitment to developing hydrogen as a fuel for marine use and the infrastructure and projects already in development.  Hydrogen is already being successfully deployed in numerous small vessels and has the potential to be scaled up, said Madadh Maclaine, of the Zero Emission Ship Technology Association.

Speakers agreed that enabling policies, collaboration and research and development would be needed to decide how shipping would move forward with decarbonisation – with a commitment to ensuring that no one was left behind, through collaboration and technical cooperation. “The shipping industry stands ready to move,” said Johannah Christensen, managing director & head of projects & programmes, Global Maritime Forum (GMF) – Getting to Zero Coalition, adding that the shipping sector benefited from having a global regulator to define and shape policy, the IMO.

“We have to change to address global climate change,” said the IMO’s Edmund Hughes. “We have to find new technologies and new fuels if we are to achieve at least 50 per cent reduction in annual GHG emissions from international shipping by 2050.” For individual ships, the targets set mean an 85 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions per ship. Operational and technical measures can contribute, including port time optimisation and technologies which can be used on existing ships, with examples including air lubrication and wind propulsion to improve operational energy efficiency.

Closing the Symposium, IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim said: “The topics of the last two days have a common element, which is essential to sustainable future shipping – and that is fuels. The development and provision of viable alternative fuels cannot be solved by the shipping industry alone – but needs support from the wider maritime industry, such as oil industries, charterers and ports.”