Oskar Levander, SVP business concepts at Kongsberg Maritime says that a “triangle approach” is needed to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from international shipping. He believes that while we need to minimise energy consumption, this alone will not be enough to meet the IMO’s 2050 GHG emissions reduction target*. A clean energy source and efficient conversion for use onboard a vessel are vital and should be prioritised if international shipping is to play its part in reducing global emissions.
Speaking during a webinar hosted by Kongsberg last week (April 23), Levander said that today there is an increased need to find and convert cleaner energy sources to meet global GHG emissions targets as, “current fuels available today just won’t be able to achieve the reductions that are needed, and we need to look at all parts of this triangle.”
Reducing waste with digital solutions
One of the first things the shipping industry could do to start reducing GHG emissions, is to look at which activities in the industry bring value and which perhaps add little value but contribute to large quantities of waste. Levander said we should look at those with ‘non-value activity.’ For instance, he said that, “a ship running ballast, transporting water around the world is a type of waste, it doesn’t add any value. If you can minimise that, you can reduce the waste.”
Another example is a ship arriving in port. Prior to arrival, the ship speeds up and then slows down to make the arrival in time, only to end up waiting a few days before being able to enter the port. This generates waste due to speeding in the beginning and waiting prior to entering the port. “If we can reduce this, then we can definitely reduce the waste,” he said.
Levander believes that digital solutions are the key to this. “Digitalisation is not just about optimising vessel efficiency but also about asking – have we got the right tool for the job?”
One example he referred to was an ROV, and the operation that is required for it. “Today these ROVs are usually supported by a big vessel, maybe 20 people and a lot of power. But what you really need is a power source and a connection to the operator. What if you just had an autonomous surface vehicle there with a genset and a satellite connection to the operator? We could definitely reduce cost and drive down energy demand needed to operate that ROV,” he explained.
During the webinar, he urged people to think about what tools they really need and to use digital technologies to help them perform tasks at sea more efficiently. He went on to say that, “ship intelligence is the great means to reduce some of this waste we have and become more efficient and avoid consuming unnecessary energy.”
But looking forward, Levander warned that, “reducing energy demand will not be enough. We need to really also find a new energy source, a fuel with less carbon in it.”
Fuelling a low-carbon industry
Historically, fuel was 90 per cent heavy fuel oil (HFO) and 10 per cent distillate. But Levander sees a more diverse fuel palette in the future. While there are many options of fuel to reduce carbon emissions, including low sulphur fuel oil (LSFO), marine gas oil (MGO), liquified natural gas (LNG), methanol, biofuel, hydrogen and several others being tested, Levander said that we can’t focus on this many options as we won’t be able to ensure the right infrastructure, so there is a need to focus on a few of the right fuels.
To find the best alternative fuels for shipping’s GHG emissions reduction, Levander emphasised the importance of considering well-to-wake emissions. “We need to start moving away from looking at the emissions from the vessel itself, or the tank-to-wake emissions, and to look at the total chain from the well to the tank, to the wake.
“That becomes especially important when we look at new fuels,” he clarified.
Levander said that if you look at the traditional fuels like HFO and diesel, it’s usually been enough to consider the tank to wake emissions to see if the fuel is a good option or not (see figure 1). “But looking at the alternative fuels, it’s not really giving the right picture so we need to include the well to tank emissions.”
Levander pointed to biogas as having good potential for shipping. He said that biogas coming from a digested storage option where you could avoid having methane emitted as waste, and instead turn it into a fuel, could result in a negative emissions situation. “The question of course, is how much this is around.”
Levander believes that there is potential in hydrogen for it to help meet GHG emissions reduction targets, but it has to be produced in the right way. “Hydrogen produced from steam reforming by natural gas will actually increase emissions. Hydrogen is not always correct as a GHG reduction solution as it can actually increase emissions. So, you need to look at electrolysis. You really need to find green electricity and run electrolysis.”
Looking at the zero emissions options, Levander said that there are a few options. Batteries are one option, which are developing fast, he confirmed. Levander said that batteries might be the most efficient way to use their power onboard ships, compared with hydrogen, as you can convert a whole lot more of the original electricity into propulsion. “Batteries are a good solution for certain ships and applications and a great opportunity for retrofit, particularly in offshore vessels, but their uses can be limited due to size,” he said.
Hydrogen, however, is a good fuel in that it can be very clean, but comes with handling challenges as it needs to be cooled down a lot, and this can be costly. The infrastructure for its production is also not widely available at the moment and it needs to be produced from renewable electricity to make it a suitable fuel for GHG emissions reduction. Some companies are looking to natural gas and carbon capture, but that is not yet available, said Levander.
Levander said that with hydrogen, much of its energy can be lost during production. “One option is to take the electricity but instead of liquifying it, you convert it further into methane, and then you liquify that which takes significantly less energy and it can be run on a normal gas engine. This way you have more energy left at the end of the day. The big importance is that you can use normal LNG infrastructure and normal LNG engines and when the fuel becomes available, you already have the means to use it.” This method described is something Levander is keen on due to its efficiency and carbon neutrality and is appealing for the marine industry.
Ammonia is a fuel that is currently available and is being tested in some projects, but Levander said that again the infrastructure is not really there and it is still a toxic fuel. However, he confirmed that there are a lot of “interesting developments.”
While the aforementioned alternative energy sources such as batteries and renewable power via electrolysis provide good potential for the future, they are still, “a little while away.” Levander said the industry can start looking at other technologies that are quite short term and still achieve big potential savings. These options include wind power, air lubrication, LNG or synthetic natural gas and slow steaming. “The key is to integrate in the right way,” Levander said. “Concrete actions are needed to meet GHG emission targets and we need to look at the well to wake chain to achieve very big potential savings.”
*The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set a target of reducing emissions from international shipping by at least 50 per cent by 2050 from 2008 levels.