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Alternative fuels for a more sustainable future in shipping

YoungShip Oslo is the Young@Nor-Shipping 2022 partner, and is eager to learn more about alternative fuels within shipping. In particular, if implementing alternative fuels technology may accelerate the process to meet emission goals and ambitions established for the future. For this occasion, they have spoken to Øyvind Sekkesæter, environmental consultant at DNV.


Alternative fuels have today become a trending topic within the shipping industry. We asked Øyvind why we are here today?

The initial IMO GHG strategy from 2018 targets a reduction in GHG emissions from shipping by 50% in 2050, compared to 2008, in absolute terms. At the same time, they have a goal to reduce carbon intensity by 70% compared to 2008 levels. These two targets make up the long-term ambitions.

Apart from regulators, we increasingly also see other stakeholders in the shipping industry like banks and cargo-owners wanting to reduce their maritime GHG footprint. Currently, seaborne shipping contributes to approximately 3% of global CO2 emissions. Although this share may seem small given the amount of international trade that marine shipping facilitates, this 3% will grow significantly unless the maritime industry takes action to reduce GHG emissions along with other sectors such as road transportation and aviation. That is why it is important to act already now.


In terms of solutions, several alternative fuels technologies seem to enable reduction of GHG emissions from the shipping industry. On this background, we would like to investigate the possibilities of alternative fuels we have available on the market today. According to DNV`s article on “Alternative fuels and technologies”, where many fuel alternatives were discussed, DNV identified LNG, LPG, methanol, biofuel, hydrogen and other power-to-fuel solutions as promising alternative fuels for future shipping. Øyvind explains:

Alternative fuels have a very wide definition. It is a term used to denote a range of different fuels, produced from either fossil energy sources, biomass, or renewable electricity. In short, all fuels that are not designated as conventional, such as fuel oil.

Øyvind Sekkesæter, environmental consultant at DNV. Photo: Private

Having said that, Øyvind points out that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. The most interesting alternative fuel for a given vessel will depend on factors such as operational profile, size, and ship-type. Consequently, some technologies will be more relevant for the short-sea segment compared to the deep-sea segment, such as fully battery-electric ships. Deep-sea shipping contributes the lion’s share of world fleet CO2 emissions. Ships in this category have high energy consumption, requiring more space onboard allocated for fuel storage. As a result, it may be more technically challenging to find viable solutions for decarbonization.


With the short-term IMO GHG requirements expected to be adopted this summer, and several ambitions set, we are very curious on how Øyvind personally predict the future of alternative fuels?

In the short term, I personally see alternative fuels such as LNG and LPG with a high uptake, we are already seeing it today in terms of numbers of vessels in the order book. A large share of the newbuilding order book today consists of vessels with alternative fuels technologies. The last few years have especially seen an acceleration in the uptake of LNG as fuel. Even though LNG is not a carbon-neutral fuel, it still can achieve significant reductions in GHG emission, in addition to being cost-efficient compared to conventional fuels for many ships.
Furthermore, how do you forecast alternative fuels in a long-term perspective?

In the long term to meet IMO`s ambitions of 50% reduction in 2050 compared to 2008, carbon-neutral fuels need to enter the fleet. There are also other regulators, nationally and regionally, for example the EU, China, and Japan, with their own climate goals that exceeds the current IMO GHG strategy. Besides authorities we see push from financial institutions and banks, through the Poseidon Principles, starting to monitor the climate alignment of their ship financing portfolios, and cargo-owners that will do the same for their chartering-operations through the Sea Cargo charter. There is currently no certainty as to which carbon-neutral fuel will be the marine fuel of the future. A number of fuel-candidates that have been highlighted as promising include carbon-neutral methanol, ammonia, hydrogen, and bio-LNG.

In summary, the shipping industry needs to investigate, develop and implement alternative fuels in the future in order to meet IMO requirements and reduce CO2 emissions. Today, although there is a wide range of alternative fuel options, there are certainly also some limitations and challenges associated with production, storage and use. It will be exciting to see how far the shipping industry will come within this area for a more sustainable future.

Many thanks again to Øyvind Sekkesetær for taking his time to participate in this interview.

This article was written by Nikoline Astrup, YoungShip Oslo.

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