What will power shipping in 2050?
Leah Kinthaert asked several maritime experts which alternative fuel they thought would see the largest growth by 2050. Will LNG remain on top of the heap, or will battery power or wind propulsion lead the way?
Dr Nishatabbas Rehmatulla
“The answer to your question will depend mostly on what happens in the policies for decarbonisation in shipping — the current state of policies and economics alone may not justify more use of alternative sources of energy. The take up and growth of various alternative energy sources will differ depending on the ambition of the policies, for example the price of carbon. At the lower end of the scale, we might see the increased take-up wind technologies, such as Flettner rotors, and on the higher end of the scale we can even see the take-up of hydrogen and fuel cells.
“A lot of our evidence comes from combining social science, quantitative and qualitative data gathering, as well as modelling of the shipping sector, using GloTraM, which combines multi-disciplinary analysis and modelling techniques to estimate foreseeable futures of the shipping industry — for example our report for the Danish Shipowners Association, CO2 emissions in shipping, and the Carbon War Room, Navigating Decarbonisation.”
“Given the need for the shipping sector to decarbonise on a trajectory aligned with the rest of the economy, we would expect to see growth in low-carbon energy sources such as batteries, hydrogen, biofuels and renewables. Our experience shows there are practical applications of innovations in these energy sources occurring in niche sectors of shipping, primarily tug, ferry and shortsea shipping. The key is to scale these energy sources to enable viable alternatives for different shipping sectors, and it’s important to remember that based on ship type, operating profile and flexibility viability will mean different things to different sectors.”
Dr Kirsi Tikka
Executive Vice President for Global Marine
“Current efforts to reduce carbon emissions are driving changes that we believe will deliver significant emissions reductions in the shipping industry by 2050. Liquefied natural gas will continue to play an important role as an alternative to conventional fuel oil for many years, but it is not the final solution in a decarbonised world. New sources, including wind, solar, biofuels, hydrogen fuel cells and other novel concepts will continue to emerge as the industry moves toward achieving the goal of low to zero emissions.
“Given the recent advancements in hydrogen fuel cells and wind technologies, I think much of the growth will likely come from these sources. Much work is still needed, however, to make them cost-effective and fit for purpose. At ABS, we are already on this journey with industry. One recent project with industry and government stakeholders focused on proving the feasibility of a high-speed ferry, the SF Breeze, powered entirely by hydrogen fuel cells. As a technology leader, ABS is always looking ahead to anticipate industry’s needs and working alongside our clients to help prove new and innovative concepts that will promote a safer and more sustainable shipping industry.”
Chief Sustainability Officer
“A recent study on low-carbon pathways for shipping carried out by DNVGL shows that if we are to significantly reduce emissions from shipping as an industry without using nuclear fuel, the only real option we have today is sustainable biofuels, probably mainly in the form of biodiesel, as this is what today's prime movers utilise. However, whether there will be sufficient availability at competitive cost of such biofuels for ships is very questionable. In such a scenario, it will therefore have to be sustainable biofuels that see the largest percentage growth by 2050.”
Birgit Marie Liodden
“I believe the future use of energy in our industry is hybrid. There isn't a one size fits all due to the industry and infrastructure needs. For coastal and shortsea shipping, I predict battery technology will be the clear winner. For deepsea, I have a strong belief in hydrogen, though several technological breakthroughs are required first. And even though it has been considered less relevant, I would add that I am optimistic on wave power as well towards 2050. Several actors have explored this without really cracking the code. It will take time, but I'm quite confident that we will eventually be capable of utilising the enormous power of the oceans.”
“By 2050, ships must operate in a net zero-emission world if the Paris Agreement’s 2°C target is to be met. Failure means the world we know is left behind. The most technically and commercially viable zero or low-emission energy, or combination of energies, for specific ship types must be trialled as a matter of urgency. It’s not just about propulsion, but the ships’ lifecycle. It will take a monumental effort to decarbonise the entire shipping system. Technologies we’ve yet to imagine combined with energy sources, such as wind, that we’ve used for millennia, must be deployed appropriately to achieve a 21st-century zero-carbon world. All zero-carbon solutions will need to grow at an eye-watering pace if we are to have any chance of meeting the great global challenge ahead of us. The most important energy must come from us, combining human ingenuity with total commitment.”
Senior Manager Environment
“What we have learned in the last few years is that predictions have become more difficult. When Sulphur Emission Control Areas came around, we thought LNG was going to grow quickly, but it has not. At the same time, scrubbers were initially thought to be only for retrofits and regional traffic, but now we see them in newbuildings for oceangoing traffic as well. I think the only certain prediction is that the market for maritime fuel will be much more diverse in the future than today, with vessels using various types of oil, methanol, and methane (LNG/liquefied bio gas). What I hope for from an environmental point of view is that we will see a much larger share of bio-based fuels on the maritime market, and that eventually we may also see a potential for electricity and various hybrid solutions, at least for shorter routes.”
Dr Anne-Marie Warris
“Early transition growth: of the fleet at present (based on research), 99%-plus use heavy fuel oil or marine gas oil. Transition growth will be in MGO. Why? To manage the 2020 sulphur regulations. Most of the fleet is chartered and, in the main, charterers pay for fuel but not for investments such as scrubbers.
“Mid-term growth by 2030: wind supported propulsion — because it has a real commercial track record in reducing the use of conventional fuel; it is free to use; it is not restricted, so there is no competition with other users; and its use generates no carbon emissions. ‘Wind comes and goes or blows in the right or wrong direction’, so it will be combined with more efficient use of sea current. Wind will in the medium term need conventional fuels to achieve efficient and low-carbon shipping, the combined carbon footprint of which will be less than LNG. Wind is likely to be used as support in emerging hybrid propulsion.
“Future reality by 2040: significant growth in commercial electrical ships using lithium-air fuel cell battery — a significant step up from current lithium battery technology — charging batteries when in port from green electricity, as well as generating electricity from solar photovoltaic and wind. Batteries would be stored in spaces now occupied by fuel tanks.”
Policy and Regulatory Affairs Advisor
“In the light of soaring fuel costs and an increased policy and regulatory focus on reducing emissions, we expect to see greater interest in renewable energy sources and lower carbon forms of energy conversion, such as fuel cells. To reduce carbon emissions, the shipping sector will need to invest in sustainable shipping solutions, and it is already doing so. For instance, recently Wallenius Wilhelmsen conceptualised the world’s first zero-emission vessel, E/S Orcelle, which will solely rely on energy sources already available at sea: wind, sun and waves. Similarly, Yara Birkeland will be the world’s first autonomous, fully electric and zero-emission ship, set to be launched by 2020.
“Wind-assisted propulsion offers one of the more promising options for introducing renewable power (for example, Flettner rotors) into shipping and is expected to be widely adopted by 2050. Voyage simulation and modelling by UCL estimates that wind technologies can deliver fuel savings anywhere from 10%-60%. According to the same study, wind technologies can even allow older, less efficient ships to operate competitively with new ships, especially along the busy shipping routes in the North Pacific, North Sea and Southern Ocean, which have favourable wind conditions. Although we expect traditional and not so traditional hydro-carbon marine fuels, such as oil and natural gas, to predominate for the short to medium term, we expect genuinely low carbon alternatives to see the highest rate of growth by 2050, partly as a result of the almost insignificant existing base.”
President and chief executive
“From the shipowner’s perspective, and based on discussions within the industry to which I have been privy, my bet is on LNG, with bio fuels a distant second. The key to making a good prediction must also consider how, where and when the shore-based infrastructure will grow and meet the demands of the global industry. For example, given the scarce shore infrastructure for LNG, the industry is focused now on dual-fuel vessels, but for those few cases where there is an established voyage pattern with ports where LNG is available. Stating the obvious, shipowners building ships for global trade must have the confidence that fuel will be available and thus the development of the shore-based infrastructure and fuel supply chain will be critical.”
Aviation and Shipping Officer
“The two main drivers of the uptake of innovative technologies and alternative energy sources are the design standard for new ships (Energy Efficiency Design Index) and the regulatory operational measures to reduce greenhouse gas. In case the IMO agrees to tighten the EEDI, wind power, sails, Flettner rotors, solar, and so forth, will likely see increased uptake. Yet, towards 2050, the main driver of alternative energy sources will largely depend on the implementation of an effective carbon pricing mechanism for shipping. A global target and a measure to reduce in-sector emissions consistent with the Paris Agreement will likely benefit power-to-liquid fuels (such as hydrogen and methanol) for larger ships, and battery electrical solutions for shortsea shipping.”
“There are two Flettner rotor-fitted vessels at present and a third test rig will be fitted over the summer. A small number of kites are still installed. This is a crucial transition period for wind propulsion, with a large number of projects in the final stages of research, development and testing, and we will be seeing a number of additional test/demonstration vessels over the coming year. The EU recently commissioned a report on wind propulsion, with a headline statement that reads: ‘In 2030, the market potential could amount to around 3,700 to 10,700 installed systems on bulkers and tankers, associated with approximately 3.5-7.5 Mt CO2 savings and 6,500-8,000 direct and 8,500-10,000 indirect jobs’.
“There will be a basket of fuel options being used, rather than a single source, partly due to the complexity of the shipping industry, and the continued need for existing ships to operate and thus be retrofitted. However, on a CO2 basis, we need to get emissions down to 60%-90% by then, and the ships will be operating in a net zero emissions environment by then (as a trajectory to stay close to 1.5°C).
“Biofuels will certainly grow substantially from the low levels now, as will synthetic fuel options. There will be a continued rise in the use of batteries (with energy produced at sea and from on land sources), the costs of which are falling and capacity increasing, a trend that will certainly continue. Solar is currently restricted by space available, however improvements in module efficiency will continue and new solar coatings and materials could revolutionise this area in the coming decade. Hydrogen is a crucial area, and there is a lot of activity here again — fuel cells are improving and a lot of R&D and testing will certainly yield results and see more uptake in the industry.
“From what I have seen and read on LNG, the uptake has been much slower than previously predicted, with only about 10%-20% of the predicted level of vessels either built or ordered to date. This fuel will become more available worldwide and will certainly be a part of the mix, but the development has been patchy and the market has answered with LNG-ready or dual-fuel options. I think that speaks volumes for the uncertainty in the market at present about all fuel choices, their carbon intensity, their availability and the more flexible, multi-fuel/multi-propulsion future of shipping.”
Manager, Advisory Services
“It is always difficult to make predictions about specific technologies and growth, especially in an industry undergoing so much transformation today. But we know a few trends are likely to continue — air quality concerns and regulations, and thereby ECA zones, are likely to grow; the world’s governments have agreed to a global climate goal and the IMO is now developing its regulatory framework for a low-carbon future; and rising numbers of shippers, investors, and entire supply chains are re-orienting towards low carbon and lower environmental impact. How this will play out in specific technological pathways is impossible to know, but our data from the Clean Cargo Working Group collected annually shows that carriers are already adopting technologies that result in climate and air-quality emissions reductions annually.
“My prediction would be that fleet-wide efficiency, LNG, marine biofuels, and hydrogen would experience the most growth because they all offer low-carbon and low-air-pollutant-emissions benefits. Anecdotally, this is what we hear from academic, market and scientific experts who regularly speak at BSR’s CCWG meetings. The CCWG is a global business-to-business leadership initiative involving major brands, cargo carriers and freight forwarders dedicated to reducing the environmental impacts of goods transportation, and promoting responsible shipping. Today, the CCWG represents 85% of the ocean container shipping industry and more than 25 global customers. Carriers who report annually to the CCWG have shown more than 30% emissions reductions per TEU-km since 2009. More than 50% of our carriers, such as CMA CGM, APL, and Hamburg Süd, have set emissions reductions targets, and more than 50% of our member forwarders and shippers are using our data annually for sustainability reporting and to evaluate carriers. Additionally, large shippers such as Walmart, IKEA, Electrolux and Nike have set, or are setting, science-based targets to align with the global climate goal agreed by the world’s governments. These goals by governments and customers require deep greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and while it is within the realm of possibility that breakthrough technologies in efficiency may emerge, it is more likely that low-carbon and low-emissions fuel technologies will emerge to bridge the gap cost effectively between what efficiency alone can produce and the deep cuts required.
“Technology development, testing, piloting, deployment and scaling takes time, and it is impossible to predict the winners. But the conditions driving technological development in shipping fuels are largely pointing toward the lowest-carbon and lowest-emissions options.”
“Firstly, allow me to comment on the use of LNG as fuel for ships and how environmental LNG really is. To date, LNG technology is used as an important option to meet IMO requirements for the main types of emissions (SOx, NOx, PM, CO2). This is the direct emissions from ships and not the emissions to produce LNG, transport it and distribute it. We don´t mention methane gas as a by-product of LNG fuel and its effect on global warming.
“In my opinion, using a source of energy to meet regulatory requirements is completely different than doing so to try to curb the environmental footprint of the shipping industry. LNG is not the solution to do the latter, rather an alternative to do the former.”
“I would also like to point out an interesting technology that was not mentioned in your alternatives — electric power. The world´s first all-electric battery-powered ferry was revealed in Norway in 2014 and, seeing the development of electric cars, buses and soon trucks, it is my opinion that the electric power alternative, combined with solar power to partly recharge the batteries, should follow suit and see the largest percentage growth by 2050.”
Per Winther Christensen
Deputy Technical Director
“With only few Flettner rotors installed and in operation today I believe that the growth will be highest, so if 500 are installed in 2050 it will be a growth times 100 over 30 years. LNG will also be a significant player but, maybe not that dominant in deepsea shipping and on tramp ships.
“I see an increasing interest for the Flettner rotor, and Maersk Tankers will install two rotors on a vessel this year. Expected savings on the rotor systems vary and are particularly dependent on the vessels’ trade patterns and which wind systems they meet on the voyage. Savings could be up to 10%, which is significant. The Flettner system is not very well suited to the operation of a container vessel but ro-ro, tankers and possibly bulk carriers will be good platforms for the system.”
The PoliSea Group
“Over the next decade, the largest alternative energy growth will be ‘no energy’. Efficiency will reign as competition increases and increasingly sophisticated data and models reveal new opportunities to save money. Emerging technologies like wind power will further enhance the ability of conventional fuels to achieve more with less.
“By 2050, current policy trajectories indicate that maritime transportation will be operating in a worldwide low-carbon economy. To do this effectively, it will have to electrify with the source of the electrons evolving to become carbon-neutral. Other work by UCL shows that operational measures, including slow steaming, can reduce fuel use by 50% or more without substantial disruption to current industry practices. This creates a high bar for all other fuel options, essentially requiring that any alternative energy source promises to be substantially less expensive or effectively carbon neutral to be a viable alternative for the future.
“I mentioned electrification, which is not exactly an alternative energy source. Today's electric-drive vessels are powered by everything from HFO to hydrogen. The versatility of electric drive would have made it the norm for the maritime industry long ago but for the fact that minor losses make them 3%-5% less efficient than their direct-drive counterparts. The efficiency gap has narrowed substantially in recent years. This, combined with the electric drive's ability to facilitate true low-carbon energy alternatives, makes me believe that it will see substantial growth in coming decades.”
Co-Founder & Executive Director
“I believe LNG will continue its upward trajectory, resulting in the greatest growth among the alternative energy offerings. LNG is gaining market acceptance not only for its reduction in emissions, but also in its now competitive pricing structure. Engine manufacturers, such as Wärtsilä, are developing the propulsion technology. In a global industry where fuel availability is a challenge, there is an uptick in the availability of LNG bunkering, which requires infrastructure and asset investment. Once these investments in equipment and infrastructure have been made, industry will want to amortise the costs over as many years as possible.”
Director, Innovation and Human Capital
“The providers of maritime technology are ready to accelerate the greening of shipping. The uptake of technologies is driven by international regulations as well as by a demand for green transport by clients. The maritime sector is in need of consistency in scheduling entry dates of new regulations in order to get prepared in terms of implementing technology, deciding on investments and assessing impact on operations. Governments may provide incentives and instruments to stimulate the greening of shipping. The key to greening, however, is the demand from clients for maritime transport with a low footprint. As to the most promising technology, biofuels are likely to be more widely used if available in large volumes at advantageous prices. The International Energy Agency has reported that it expects around 27% of fuel for all forms of transport to come from ‘biological sources’ in 2050.”
Knut Stangebye Olsen
Head of Research
“LNG could easily outgrow all other marine fuels to 2050. There are currently some 100 LNG-fuelled ships in operation, excluding 450 LNG ships using LNG cargo boil-off as fuel in addition to marine fuel oil. Another 100 LNG-fuelled ships or so are on order, while there are also some 70 LNG-ready ships either delivered or on order. We expect the fleet of LNG-fuelled ships to grow rapidly when ordering picks up after the slump seen in many shipping markets. Growth could be particularly strong leading up to the phasing in of the 0.5% sulphur cap on marine fuel from 2020 imposed by the IMO.”
This article was first published by Knect365, an Informa business.