Accessing IMO Agenda for Shipping Sector to Achieve Net Zero Emissions by 2050.
Recently, plans were laid out by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the UN body in charge of regulating shipping, for this sector to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. This is because ships transport around 90% of traded products and produce about 3% of the world’s CO2 emissions.
Reports say, the wind can help modern vessels move a little bit like their prehistoric ancestors did. Using sails made of the same material as wind turbines, a British cargo ship just completed its inaugural journey.The ability of wind to power the world’s shipping fleet is constrained by propeller systems, which only supply up to 30% of the energy boats need to navigate – and much less in bad weather. This can lower a ship’s lifetime emissions. However, it is unlikely that wind propellers will completely replace fuel engines in cargo ships. The shipping sector needs to switch from oil to alternate, environmentally friendly fuels.
Experts say, the transition to fuels like ammonia, hydrogen, and methanol will be slightly difficult for the maritime industry. Even if a few businesses, like Maersk, have started testing them, the entire industry will need to be transformed. To do this, renewable energy must be expanded, new global fuel distribution networks must be built, regulatory structures must be updated, and green fuel-compatible ship engines must be developed.While some of these actions are already in motion, there is still much to be done.
What does “green” shipping fuel mean?
Utilizing electricity produced by wind, solar, or other renewable resources, green hydrogen is created by separating water into hydrogen and oxygen. Through the Haber-Bosch reaction, green hydrogen and airborne nitrogen combine to produce green ammonia.
Either plant waste or other organic waste is heated to produce a gas that can be turned into bio-methanol, or green hydrogen and collected CO2 are combined to produce e-methanol.
In addition to the emissions produced when a fuel is burned in a ship’s engine, the emissions produced during its production, extraction, transportation, and storage must also be included when determining a fuel’s true environmental impact.
“Well-to-wake” is the name of this emissions lifetime evaluation. Similar to how a ship using ammonia or methanol produced by burning natural gas is not zero-carbon if its fuel is derived from fossil sources.
This assessment requires that only renewable energy be used to produce the three fuels. Just doing that will need significant investment. The shipping industry will need up to 3,000 terawatt-hours (TWh) of renewable electricity annually, which is almost equivalent to the present global total of wind and solar electricity generation (about 3,444 TWh), according to a study conducted by the International Chamber of Shipping in 2022.
By 2050, additional industries like steel and cement will also require zero-emission energy, thus this output must be increased. In fact, it will cost up to US$1.9 trillion (£1.5 trillion) to completely decarbonize shipping, more than half of which will be required to produce green hydrogen, which is also necessary to manufacture green methanol and ammonia.
Oil and diesel-powered ships cannot simply transition to use renewable fuels. Before 2050, the world’s fleet of approximately 61,000 ships will need to be updated or replaced.
Existing ships can be retrofitted to run on methanol and ammonia, but depending on the fuel, each ship can cost between US$5 million and US$15 million. Older ships are likely to approach the end of their useful lives before this investment pays off, and even for smaller ships, the burdensome cost is the same.
Shipping companies that deal with containers like Maersk, Evergreen, CMA CGM, and COSCO have already placed orders for ships that can burn both methanol and methane. In August 2023, Maersk’s first dual-fuel ship, which burns both fuel oil and green methanol, sailed from South Korea to Denmark carrying goods.
While not yet burning ammonia, the first ammonia-ready ship, Kriti Future, is now cruising the seas. MSC Cruises has purchased two hydrogen-ready ships for 2028, despite the fact that hydrogen fuel cell-powered ships lag behind those powered by the other two fuels.
Despite the fact that these vessel orders give rise to hope about decarbonization, they represent a very modest portion of the worldwide fleet.
The sluggish adoption of alternative fuels may be partially attributed to a lack of safety requirements.
Despite predictions from the International Energy Agency that green ammonia will predominate as a fuel in 2050, shipping corporations have increased their orders for ships that run on methanol and methane. This is due in part to shipowners’ concerns about ammonia and hydrogen’s future after the IMO released safety requirements for methanol as fuel but not for the other two fuels.
Green fuels must be widely accessible at ports around the world in order to be broadly embraced, yet none are. their aren’t enough green methanol ports despite their being roughly 120 ports available for storing and transporting methanol. Where this fuel is available, it is frequently obtained through secret agreements between a select group of sizable shipowners and methanol producers.
By the end of 2023, the Green Methanol Institute estimates that 0.7 million tonnes of green methanol might be produced worldwide. By 2027, production capacity is anticipated to increase to 8 million tonnes annually. However, to replace oil, the global shipping sector will need 550 million tonnes by 2050.
The amount of farm and food waste may not be sufficient to decarbonize every sector of the world economy. Thus, there is a need to increase the fuel generation from renewable electricity.
Observed from the surface of an oil pipeline, a sizable ship in port.
Ports all throughout the world must adapt quickly to handle new fuels.
Building pipelines, storage tanks, and port refueling stations will also be necessary for the rollout of green fuels. The primary component of alternative fuels, green hydrogen, will require a significant investment because it must be kept in specialized storage at a temperature of approximately 253°C.
The future fuel for the maritime sector is still up in the air. But given the scarcity of renewable energy, more than one is required.
The good news is that decarbonizing international shipping will help more than just this crucial business by accelerating investments in renewable energy and giving emerging economies with abundant sunlight the potential to thrive by producing a lot of low-cost green hydrogen.