Decarbonization of the Shipping Industry
By Thomas Klenum, Senior Vice President, Maritime Operations and Dallas Smith, Vice President LNG & Alternative Fuels
Decarbonization is an issue that is currently affecting shipping, and it will shape the course of the industry for generations to come. The industry has to decide how they will address these future regulations, whether they implement new technologies, switch to new fuel sources, and/ or change operational methods. Many have serious concerns regarding this, but some key stakeholders see this as an opportunity to transform our maritime industry along the lines of environmental sustainability, paving the way for a future of zero emission vessels for international shipping.
The Liberian Registry has taken a leading role among flag State’s to work in close collaboration with high quality shipowners/operators, engine manufactures, shipyards and designers as well as classification societies and other key stakeholders to take this opportunity to transform our maritime industry toward a zero-emission sustainable future.
At the Marine Environment Protection Committee meeting (MEPC 76) in June this year IMO adopted new requirements for Energy Efficiency Existing Ships (EEXI), Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) and Enhanced Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) Part III effective from 1 January 2023. The EEXI requirement is a technical measure for existing ships similar to the EEDI requirements for newbuilds that have been in force since 2013, whereas the new CII requirement is an operational measure that will get stricter and stricter each year from 2023 to 2030 to ensure international shipping follow the decarbonization strategy that was adopted by IMO in 2018.
However, at the IMO MEPC 77 meeting from 22 to 26 November 2021, held in the wake of the COP26 event in Glasgow, Scotland, IMO commenced the review of the initial IMO Strategy on GHG emissions reduction for ships. There was general consensus that to stay within reach of the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal of the UN Paris Agreement, then international shipping needs to accelerate the decarbonization and target zero GHG emissions or at least net-zero CO2 emission by 2050. The discussions will continue at IMO with the aim to agree on a revised strategy at the MEPC 80 meeting in 2023, however in order to agree on an accelerated decarbonization strategy it is imperative that research and development (R&D) projects are equally accelerated to ensure the Technological Readiness Level (TRL) of new technologies, innovative design solutions and alternative fuels are sufficiently advanced to be adopted for new ship designs and retrofit for existing vessels as soon as possible prior to 2030.
Considering the imminent need for R&D projects as discussed at MEPC 77, it should be noted that the Liberian Registry has been proactively pursuing participation in ship design joint industry projects (JIP) since 2016 with focus on optimization and alternative fuels as part of our support to decarbonize international shipping working in close collaboration with our clients and other key stakeholders. Now the Liberian Registry wish to take this to the next level and accelerate R&D
to further optimize ship designs and decarbonize international shipping as soon as possible. However, it is important to emphasize that decarbonization needs to be done safely and with a sustainable approach and due consideration to all aspects of international shipping including port facilities and logistics.
Therefore, shipowners have very important decisions to make with regards to the technologies to be retrofitted or installed aboard their ships, and the design of future ships to be ordered. The Liberian Registry actively supports the shipowners flying the Liberian flag in taking informed decisions, ensure safe operations, and achieve the goals set forth by the industry.
As already mentioned, Liberia is very active in the implementation of emerging and new technologies, and the Registry’s global team provides capabilities that continue to make it the go-to flag for ship owners all across the world. This is evident not only from the continuous fleet growth of the Registry, or in the Flag’s continued PSC White Listing and excellent performance, but also by the fact that Liberia has both the most dual-fueled deep-draft vessels and the fastest growing gas carrier fleet in the world. These impressive results are due in-large part to our global 24/7 presence and support, easy processes and procedures, and cost savings benefits; but most importantly because of their people. Their dedicated Global Gas Team supports the gas fleet throughout the full lifecycle, from design to construction and delivery, and during operation. This team can assist in the review of future vessel designs, offer insights and recommendations to mitigate risks/costs, technical and safety implications, and demonstrate compliance with applicable rules and regulations.
In addition to having an experienced global team of professionals in this space, the Liberian Registry is the world’s fastest growing flag, and currently comprises a fleet of over 5,000 vessels totaling over 207 Million Gross Tons. This technologically advanced fleet boasts the most deep draft dual fueled vessels on the water today. This also allows the Registry to be able to identify the macro and micro trends in real time as they develop.
Another contributing factor to the growth success of the Liberian flag is the early involvement in prospective new ship designs featuring the latest new technology, innovative design features as well as alternative fuels. This is done through participation in joint industry projects (JIP) with key stakeholders such as high-quality shipyards, designers and classification societies. The team of highly qualified personnel adds value to these JIPs by using the provisions in the international regulatory framework allowing for a risk-based approval approach demonstrating an at least equivalent level of safety as the prescriptive rules & regulations as the way forward to approve new technologies and alternative fuels. These JIPs lead to an Approval in Principle of a concept design that provides confidence to prospective shipowners that the detailed design with the innovative features can also be approved, constructed and enter into operation gaining a competitive advantage, These JIPs therefore pave the way for a multifold win-win situation for the involved stakeholders. This is the key for our industry to unlock the potential to fully decarbonize international shipping.
The market is seeing many shipowners and operators are moving in the direction of gas from traditional Heavy Fuel Oils (HFO), whether it is LNG, propane, or ethane. Although, these liquefied gas fuels are being considered transitional fuels; this is because they still contain carbon. That being said, they will play a large role in achieving the goals set forth by the IMO for reduction of emissions. LNG’s carbon component makes it unsuitable for end-state emission goals, but its advantages during the transition period cannot be denied.
The IMO GHG emissions reduction strategy will most probably be revised at the MEPC 80 meeting early 2023 to require international shipping to reach zero GHG emissions or at least net-zero CO2 emission by 2050. Therefore, the transition period for the use of LNG and other low carbon fuels may be shorter than initially expected.
However, the reasons for LNG adoption are simple: there is abundance of supply, it is cost effective, it is effective and manageable, and it is a readily available fuel solution that achieves the current goals set forth by the IMO. But LNG is not the only option to lower emissions, though it is the most “shovel ready” at the moment. Liquefied hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol are also possibilities.
Hydrogen is an attractive fuel source due to its cleanliness. Hydrogen does not release any CO2 when burned, and liquefied hydrogen can charge batteries for electrical propulsion via fuel cell technology. Hydrogen is normally stored and transported as a liquid, and this is where the difficulties are seen. Liquid hydrogen is about four times larger by volume than conventional diesel, which presents a challenge when considering ship fuel capacity and endurance.
Ammonia does not produce CO2 when burned and is another possibility of reaching the IMO’s decarbonization targets. Ammonia is twice as energy-rich as liquid hydrogen by weight. It has fewer storage issues than hydrogen as it can be stored at ambient temperature under a pressure of 10bar or refrigerated to minus 34°C without pressure. However, it has less than half the energy density of HFO. Another disadvantage to ammonia is that when combusted, the nitrogen present will produce NOx, itself a GHG. Moreover, it is extremely toxic even at relatively low levels, care is needed in containment systems and ammonia could pose problems for crew and salvors in a damaged situation.
Like LNG, Hydrogen and Ammonia, Methanol significantly reduces emissions of SOx, NOx and particulate matter, and with the ability to be produced from renewable sources, it offers a pathway to meeting future emissions regulations as well. That being said, when produced from natural gas CO2 is also produced. Another challenge for methanol is its low energy content and the comparatively lower amount of energy it can store in the tanks of a ship.
It should be noted that this article focuses on LNG, Hydrogen, Ammonia and Methanol, the Liberian Registry does not favor one particular fuel over another. On the contrary, the Liberian Registry is working in close collaboration with ship owners and other key stakeholders to support our industry in complying with increasingly stricter environmental requirements on our joint pathway to reach zero emission shipping as soon as possible. While the industry is trying to determine how to best meet these new requirements, the Liberian Registry has positioned itself to provide owners and operators with a capable and experienced team to assist in this process from the regulatory stand point. The Liberian Registry’s Global Gas Team is working diligently to ensure owners and operators have a viable solution. Any questions, concerns, or amplifying information can be obtained from the Registry directly from [email protected] and [email protected]
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