Zero Emission Vessels; Transition Pathways

Written on the 25th March, 2019

The University Maritime Advisory Services (U-MAS) and Lloyd’s Register published ‘Zero Emission Vessels: Transition Pathways” at the end of January 2019. The publication is part of the Low Carbon Pathways 2050 series.  The Report outlines potential pathways so that the maritime sector can realise the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO’s) emission reduction targets by 2050.  These targets include a 50% reduction  of GHG emissions compared with 2008 levels.

The types of fuel examined  include fuels from renewables (hydrogen, ammonia, e-methanol, e-gas oil and electricity for use in batteries); bio energy and fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage (CCS.)  The report  terms the renewable electricity fuels as electro-fuels.

Carlo Raucci from U-MAS will be presenting the Report’s  findings at the Conference: “Developing Hydrogen Ports and Maritime Policy in the North Sea Region” on 26 March 2019.

The Report’s  Executive Summary argues that “the decade of the 2020s – 2030s is the most significant in terms of action to transition to zero-carbon by 2050.”  It states the importance of partnership and believes that “to develop, prove, scale and commercialise the uptake of zero-emission vessels, we must now establish collaborative joint ventures.” These should  ” involve not only our own industry participants, but also fuel technology companies, equipment manufacturers and energy developers from other industrial sectors outside of shipping.”

The Report states that, at present, there is too much uncertainty to decide on one route, one fuel and one technology  for the future transition of the shipping industry towards decarbonisation. In its conclusions, the Report believes that  the  uncertainty about certain fuels need to be removed so that the quantities and price can be predicted.  This will allow  important critical path decisions and investments to be made.

This uncertainty leads the Report to consider three pathways:

  • Pathway 1: Renewables dominate
  • Pathway 2 :Bioenergy dominates
  • Pathway 3 :Equal mix.

The Report’s conclusions looks at the actions taken in the next decade (2020-2030) and then in the 2030s.

2020 – 2030

The Report stresses that urgent action is needed as this is the most significant decade in terms of research and development.  It states that “Zero emission vessel development needs full-scale prototypes and pilot studies now, exploiting any opportunities that can enable early adoption.”

There will be significant changes in the energy supply markets and issues like safety and storage will also need to be addressed.

The Report also makes important recommendations on the safety aspects of Zero Emission Vessels.  It states:

“In the first half of the 2020s, there will be a need to test the safety aspects for all potential zero-carbon fuels in marine applications through risk assessment, safer designs and implementation cases. The development of international
standards and rules is expected to be technology neutral, so regardless of the specifics of the pathway, they will need to be in place for all options by 2025 to allow ZEV new builds to enter the market in 2030.”

In addition, the Report concludes:

  • Biofuel use in the short-term must not hinder efforts on electro-fuels.
  • Batteries may not be the energy storage system for deep-sea shipping but they still have an important role
  • This period is not only important for technology and fuel development – policy initiatives, rules and standards are also critical.  The Report stresses the need for National Action Plans to reduce emissions.  These Plans also need to involve ports.

The 2030s

Scaling up zero carbon fuels relies on the direction taken in the wider energy system  and its evolution.   The Document gives an example  in the renewables dominate pathway. This will rely on access to very cheap electricity and a significant reduction in the CAPEX costs for technologies to facilitate the fuel production and the deployment of Zero Emission Vessels using electro-fuels.

It also argues that the Zero Emission Vessel deployment will use a consolidated set of technologies and that fuel cells hold great promise as part of that consolidation.  Research and development done in the previous decade is very important in the determination of the dominant technologies.

In conclusion, the Report is of great value to the marine hydrogen and fuel cell industry.  While not mapping a pathway for hydrogen alone, the Report has important advice on the steps that the hydrogen and fuel cell industry need to take so that it can play a key role in the decarbonisation of ports and the maritime sector.  The most important message is that there is much potential competition amongst Low Carbon fuels and the next decade will be crucial in terms of the development and adoption of these fuels in the marine industry. Partnerships need to be established so that hydrogen and fuel cells are at the forefront of these developments.

The full Report can be downloaded at

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