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Zero-carbon fuel readiness on the rise but challenges remain

WHILE alternatives to fuel oil are gradually being developed, The Lloyd’s Register Maritime Decarbonisation Hub’s Zero-Carbon Fuel Monitor (The Monitor) has found they are at varying levels of readiness to meet the industry’s target zero-carbon fuels in 5% of the international shipping fuel mix by 2030.

That target is the key near-term milestone for the shipping industry’s Race to Zero breakthrough.

The Hub’s research July 2022 report indicates readiness has risen for methanol, ammonia and hydrogen across many supply chain stages compared with the end of 2021.

Readiness levels are appraised from the perspectives of technology, investment and community. The assessment was carried out across the end-to-end fuel supply chain, divided into five stages — resources, production, bunkering, onboard storage and propulsion.

In December 2021, The Monitor assessed the technological readiness of resources for ammonia, hydrogen and methanol based on natural gas as level 3; that went up to level 4 in June 2022.

Technology, investment and community readiness for methanol bunkering was also higher and there was also an increase in ship storage and propulsion readiness for methanol.

The findings reflect the transition of methanol bunkering from the demonstration stage to early market introduction, as exampled by Waterfront Shipping, the shipping arm of Canadian methanol producer Methanex Corporation, recently taking delivery of six chemical tankers with methanol capability. Classification societies including LR have also published rules and regulations pertaining to methanol bunkering.

This year, Maersk Line, X-press Feeders and AAL Shipping have ordered a total of 26 ships that can be methanol-powered, adding momentum to the push for methanol bunkering.

However, technology readiness for bio-methanol production remains far from ideal. Bio-methanol facilities announced in the past six months are either not expected to be used to produce marine fuels or are too small in scale to be capable of producing incidental fuel for small fleets such as those announced in Maersk’s agreements with fuel producers.

The relatively lower community readiness for ammonia and hydrogen fuels, particularly where bunkering and use on board ship were concerned, was attributed to a lack of clarity on long-term sustainability of the fuels and technologies used to make them. Thus, there is a need for more lifecycle analysis of the environmental and socio-economic impact of the fuels. Standards and regulations are also required.

In particular, ammonia can be toxic in the water and the effects of ammonia spills on the ocean ecosystem are still being evaluated.

The environmental impact of ocean leakage therefore needs to be identified to boost community readiness for ammonia as ship fuel. According to The Monitor, the effects of an ammonia spill in various areas should be studied and mitigation measures implemented to reduce the risks of a spill. The clean-up or treatment of water where there has been a fuel spill should also be studied.

Technology and community readiness are also progressing faster than investment readiness, which requires regulatory incentives. Green corridor initiatives such as the Silk Alliance and the Montreal-Antwerp pledge should further support investment readiness.

At COP26, the Clydebank Declaration recognised the need to link supply chains and investment, and that international co-operation is needed to unlock the amount of investment required to reach the industry’s decarbonisation goals. The signatories to the Clydebank Declaration have helped spur several green corridor initiatives.

In its update, The Monitor concludes that efforts need to be stepped up to make an impact on fuel readiness. This includes developments such as electrolysers for hydrogen, direct air capture for renewable fuels, carbon capture and storage.

Download the full report here

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