The maritime sector requires secure, reliable and standardized fuels for the long-haul transportation of very large loads across oceans in all weather conditions. This has made maritime transport a difficult industry to crack when it comes to emissions reduction efforts.
Yet development of cleaner fuels is of paramount importance for preserving clean oceans and cutting greenhouse gases, Chairman and CEO of D.P. World Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said during a panel discussion led by ROSATOM at the Expo 2020 in Dubai.
For example, governments, regulators, investors and corporates have delivered support, investment and regulation that will greatly help to scale up electric cars. This will allow the sector to use wind, solar, hydro, nuclear and other carbon-free fuels.
Yet batteries and electricity hit limitations when applied to shipping, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said. The solution for emissions in the maritime shipping sector will need to come from a fuel linked to renewable or carbon-free energy.
“The best is green hydrogen,” Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem said. “And we believe there should be more work on that in terms of logistics in order to find the hydrogen available in places and ports where it can be easily delivered.”
Hydrogen, and/or related products, are desirable as a clean-burning fuel. It is currently mainly produced using water and natural gas or even coal. Yet there are processes to create “green” hydrogen using electricity, including from renewables. The industry is exploring these possibilities.
For example Danish utility Orsted has entered a partnership with Liquid Wind in Sweden to produce e-methanol for shipping from renewable hydrogen. As Liquid Wind’s name suggests, the wind which it generates is transformed into liquid fuel viable for shipping.
Meanwhile, a Japanese-Australian venture producing hydrogen from brown coal was set to start loading its maiden cargo onto the world’s first liquid hydrogen carrier last week, according to Reuters.
The appearance of more and more research facilities for green shipping – such as the Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping – is also a promising sign that the industry is on a path to decarbonisation.
That said, it is still early days for renewable hydrogen and shipping due to costs and scale.
The D.P. World boss, however, was hopeful that economies of scale and greater consumption would begin to remedy the price problem.
In the meantime, the costs of carbon emissions are beginning to rise for shippers anyway, as stricter regulations begin to come into force.
It will require delicate manoeuvring throughout the next decade to maintain momentum for green change while at the same time refraining from overburdening the sector or damaging its performance with expenses. It is a big task.
And for the moment, the best concrete actions are most likely the ones which resemble those proposed by D.P. World: working to improve the availability and logistics that will move the goal posts for green fuels a little closer.