Flexibility is key in transitioning to a lower carbon future

Sep 13 2019

Fuels of today might not be the fuels of tomorrow, warned DNV GL in a report.

In the third edition of ‘Maritime Forecast to 2050’, released this week at London International Shipping Week, DNV GL-Maritime examined the future of shipping in a rapidly changing global energy landscape, focusing on the challenge of reducing the carbon intensity of the global fleet to meet the ambitious targets set by the IMO’s greenhouse gas reduction (GHG) strategy.

“Existing technology can deliver the future we desire – including meeting the 1.5 deg C target set out in the Paris Agreement,” said Remi Eriksen, DNV GL Group President and CEO. “So far, support for the energy transition has been too sporadic. We need a broad and co-ordinated policy agenda that supports new technologies as they emerge and sustains that support through the build-out phase.”

A combination of external market pressure and the ambitious direction set by IMO means that the challenge of de-carbonisation has been laid squarely on shipping’s doorstep, the class society said. This year’s Maritime Forecast examines how the world fleet measures up in terms of de-carbonisation and looks at different strategies and pathways the industry can take to reach this goal.

The report analyses three regulatory scenarios  - continuing under current policies, regulations becoming gradually stricter, or very strict regulations introduced towards the end of the 2050 deadline - and how these could affect the transition to low and carbon neutral fuels. Improvements in general energy efficiency in on board operations is also included as an essential part of reducing emissions.

“One of the key components to meet the de-carbonisation challenge is fuel flexibility, as the fuels of today may not be the fuels of tomorrow,” said Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, DNV GL – Maritime CEO. “This means having a picture of the entire fuel ecosystem is vital, as owners, operators, and the industry itself will have a much tougher time adapting to a low carbon future if they are locked into a single choice.”

Fuel flexibility and technologies to bridge changing fuel usage have been identified as essential strategies for both individual owners and the shipping industry as a whole to adapt to the energy transition and prepare for a low carbon future.

Looking at the deepsea segment, dual-fuel and alternative fuel ‘ready’ solutions could smooth this transition, by laying the groundwork for future retrofits. Combined with bridging technologies, such as adaptable storage tanks, on board systems and shore-side fuel infrastructure, this could give the industry more options as new fuels and technologies emerge, the report said.

“Ships built today will have to compete with vessels coming onto the market in five, 10 or 15 years’ time, and must consider future standards to remain competitive,” warned Ørbeck-Nilssen. “Considering the uncertain future that lies ahead, failing to be future-proof in the newbuilding phase could lead to that asset being stranded in the not so distant future. In addition, CO2 emissions could become an important rate differentiator and we have already seen forward-looking charterers start down this road.”

The forecast showed that the uptake of low carbon and carbon-neutral fuels is essential to meeting IMO GHG goals, with carbon-neutral fuels having to supply 30–40% of the global fleet’s total energy by 2050.

Under different regulatory pathways, however, DNV GL’s model predicts that a variety of fuels could come to the fore. In all of the pathways, liquefied methane (from both fossil and non-fossil sources) provides a large part (40–80%) of the fuel mix at 2050. It was also suggested that in the deepsea sector, ammonia, biodiesel, liquid biogas and electrofuels are promising carbon neutral options, with battery, hybrid, and hydrogen solutions being potential options for the shortsea sector.

Maritime Forecast to 2050 is part of a suite of Energy Transition Outlook (ETO) reports produced by DNV GL. The ETO has designed, expanded and refined a model of the world’s energy system encompassing demand and supply of energy globally, and the use and exchange of energy between and within 10 world regions.

Meanwhile the IMO is to host a symposium on IMO2020 and alternative fuels.

It will be held on 17th October and 18th October 2019 at the organisation’s London Headquarters. 

This one and half day symposium aims to raise awareness and to take stock of the preparations for the IMO2020 rule, and to discuss the role of alternative fuels in the de-carbonisation of international shipping, the IMO explained.


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