Study: Zero Emission Ships Key to Decarbonisation

Zero emission vessels (ZEVs) are central to achieving the aim of decarbonisation, a new study of Loyd’s Register (LR) and University Maritime Advisory Services (UMAS) finds. 

The study, entitled ‘Zero Emission Vessels 2030’, aims to demonstrate the viability of ZEVs – identifying what needs to be in place to make them a competitive solution for decarbonisation.

As the first milestone in the IMO greenhouse gas (GHG) Roadmap is approaching – MEPC 72 in April 2018 – the world is watching to see if an ambitious reduction strategy in line with the Paris Agreement can be delivered. To achieve this ambition, ZEVs will need to be entering the fleet in 2030 and form a significant proportion of newbuilds from then on, according to the study.

Although none of the ZEVs are estimated to be more competitive than conventional shipping by 2030, the technology options are evolving rapidly and it’s possible that over the next 10 years the gap could reduce even further than the study estimates. If this gap does not close then there may be a need for regulatory intervention in the near future, to drive the viability compared to conventional fossil fuels.

The new report assesses seven technology options for ZEVs, applied to five different case study ship types across three different regulatory and economic scenarios. These options consist of various combinations of battery, synthetic fuels and biofuel for the onboard storage of energy, coupled with either a fuel cell and motor, internal combustion engine, or a motor for the conversion of that energy store into the mechanical and electrical energy required for propulsion and auxiliary services.

As concluded is the study, advanced biofuels appear the most attractive ZEV solution currently available due to their low capital cost implications for machinery and storage, and low fuel and voyage costs.

Commercially viable ZEV options will be extremely important

The costs of some of the components considered – fuel cells, batteries and hydrogen storage – could all reduce significantly, especially if they become important components of another sector’s decarbonisation, or if action taken during shipping’s transition assists with the technology’s development.

For those in shipping with niche access to a low-cost supply of zero-emission fuel or energy sources or an ability to pass on a voyage cost premium to a supply chain that values zero-emission services, the gap may already be closed.

From preliminary conversations with shipowners, it was determined that the key considerations would be around wanting options that were viable at a moderate carbon price – USD 50/tonne CO2 – and without too great an increase to the capital cost of the ship. It was also concluded that the impact of the CO2 emissions must not just be moved upstream, to the electricity generation or fuel production process.

None of the zero-emission options in their current specifications completely satisfy the shipowner requirements, with the most significant gap identified being on voyage (fuel) costs.

“There is no doubt that decarbonisation is a huge challenge for our sector and that we all have a clear responsibility to ensure actions are taken to drive our operational emissions to zero at a pace matching actions taken across the rest of the world and other industry sectors,” Katharine Palmer, LR’s Global Sustainability Manager, said.

“By assessing different decarbonisation options for different ship types, we identify the drivers that need to be in place to make them a competitive solution and we aim to show the opportunity for a successful and low-cost decarbonisation pathway for shipping,” Palmer added.

“This report demonstrates the potential solutions for shipping’s zero emissions transition. By sharing the findings, we hope it can provide inspiration and focus for shipping’s collective efforts to ensure zero emissions happen swiftly and with minimal cost and disruption to trade,” Tristan Smith, Reader at UCL, noted.

Related news

List of related news articles