New project to look into converting existing ships to zero-carbon fuels

A.P. Moller – Maersk, ABS, MAN Energy Solutions, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NYK Line, Seaspan Corporation and Total are joining forces through the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping to assess the technical, financial and environmental potential of converting existing vessels to zero-carbon fuels and -technology as part of the transition to a global zero carbon fleet by 2050.

As explained, the main purpose of the project is to assess conversion options and de-risk asset investments by analyzing the emission reduction potential as well as techno-economic opportunity of converting vessels currently fueled by fossil-based fuels to zero or neutral carbon fuel solutions.

In addition, the project will identify a number of technical modifications of relevance for today’s newbuildings to reduce the cost of future conversions, thus minimizing the associated financial risk for ship owners.

Courtesy of Maersk

Specifically, the project partners will address various vessel types including container-, tankers- and bulk carriers and their potential conversion from conventional fuel oil, or integration with more recent fuels such LNG and LPG, to enable pathways with future solutions such as ammonia or methanol as well as the application of onboard carbon capture and storage.

For each pathway, the related safety aspects will be reviewed, and the financial assessment will cover items such as conversion-, technology- and fuel costs as well as associated operating costs, whereas the environment assessment will, among other things, cover the green house gas reduction potential over the lifetime of a vessel.

The project is facilitated by the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping and fully funded by the involved parties. As strategic partners to the center, the partners have committed to the center’s collaboration model by which they assign experts as secondees working at the center and with other partners through projects and activities.

“In order to accelerate the investments in a zero carbon maritime value chain, we have to reduce the risk of stranded assets. With this project, we address that challenge by providing clarity and overview of the operational fuel- and technology options, their associated environmental and financial impact as well as their transition pathways,” Claus Winter Graugaard, Head of Onboard Vessel Solutions, the Mærsk McKinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping, said.

“This is a vitally important piece of work for the industry. We are assessing the opportunities and consequences of converting ships from fossil-based fuels to zero or neutral carbon fuel solution, which is something every ship owner and operator urgently needs actionable insight into. This project will turn the industry’s decarbonization ambitions into a series of actionable steps, a pathway for each vessel type to carbon free operations,” Georgios Plevrakis, ABS Director, Global Sustainability, commented.

“To accelerate the transition to carbon-neutral or zero-carbon fuels, it is not enough to focus solely on newbuilt dual fuel vessels. We must also look into retrofitting existing vessels in our fleet to operate on carbon-neutral or zero-carbon fuels,” Ole Graa Jakobsen, Head of Fleet Technology, A.P. Moller – Maersk, pointed out.

“With our participation in this project, we want to investigate retrofit possibilities for existing vessels enabling dual-fuel operation on either methanol or ammonia as well as conventional fuel oil.”

Shipping’s road map to decarbonization

Global shipping accounts for around 3% of global carbon emissions, a share that is likely to increase as other industries tackle climate emissions in the coming decades.

Achieving the long-term target of decarbonization requires new fuel types and a systemic change within the industry. Shipping is a globally regulated industry, which provides an opportunity to secure broad-based industry adoption of new technology and fuels.

To accelerate the development of viable technologies a coordinated effort within applied research is needed across the entire supply chain. Industry leaders play a critical role in ensuring that laboratory research is successfully matured to scalable solutions matching the needs of the industry. At the same time, new legislation will be required to enable the transition towards decarbonization.