International shipping relies primarily on petroleum fuel products, carrying around 90% of global trade, but emission concerns and reduced access to fuel have some seeking alternative fuel options.
- Global power sectors are nearing their peak emissions rates, but the shipping industry is not doing the same, Bloomberg reports.
- Far from leveling off, the International Energy Agency reports that shipping emissions are rising, and as international trade increases, those emissions will too.
- However, changing the shipping industry will be difficult. The equipment is expensive and takes time to manufacture, deterring any shippers from making a change.
- Change could benefit these companies. “Bunker” fuels have powered ships for decades, but these fuels, while cheap, are heavy, making ships use more energy and travel slower.
Why it’s news
If shipping industries want to change to reduce carbon output and potentially save on expenses, they will have to find an alternate fuel source. A study from the Global Maritime Forum, the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation, and Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping discusses the ways industry leaders are making a change.
While oil is the industry standard in current-day shipping, the study found that industry leaders do not think it will remain the case. Alternate-fuel options like liquefied natural gas, methane, or ammonia are all viable options that could eventually replace the current fuels. Options like hydrogen or nuclear could work for some companies but will likely play a more minor role, Bloomberg reports.
The study also found that the industry’s decarbonization efforts are incentivized by making shipping more efficient. These methods include finding shorter routes or ones that avoid inclement weather, creating more efficient hulls or propellers, and improving the ship’s engine.
While these initiatives will improve carbon output, the industry must find low-carbon fuels to replace current options to truly make a change. Electricity, biodiesel, and ammonia are potential options.
Around half of the shipping companies have attempted some form of low-carbon fuel. About 35% have not tried low-carbon options at all. Just 4% have been attempting alternative power sources.
While companies are toying with alternative options for fuel, the biggest driver of change in the industry will likely come from government regulations that require emission output reductions.
Half the companies surveyed are looking into alternative power sources but have not begun pilot testing. Around a third have no plans to adopt alternative fuels.