CIMAC: Zero-Carbon Fuels ‘Only Way’ To Meet GHG Goals

By Jack Burke14 February 2020

Zero-carbon or net-zero carbon fuels such as hydrogen seem “to be the only way” to achieve needed reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the shipping industry, according to a new position paper from the International Council on Combustion Engines (CIMAC).

The paper, “Zero Carbon Energy Sources for Shipping,” outlines what CIMAC sees as the need for zero-carbon energy sources in shipping as well as future fuel options. It is based on two White Papers covering the production of hydrogen with a zero carbon footprint and the variety of hydrogen-based fuel options. The maritime sector has pledged to reduce CO2 emissions per transport work by 70% in 2050 and reducing total GHG emissions by at least 50% in 2050 compared to 2008.

Besides other technical and operational efficiency measures, sustainable biofuels may contribute in particular for the transitional period to reduce emissions, and electrification and hybridization presumably play a bigger role in short-sea and inland shipping, according to the paper.

In the paper, CIMAC takes the following positions:

  • (Net) zero-carbon fuels represent the most promising energy carrier option for the future of shipping. Thus, the internal combustion engine is likely to remain the major prime mover in future maritime propulsion systems for deep-sea shipping, complemented by electrification and hybridization of the machinery, and potentially fuel cells.
  • Hydrogen with a (net) zero carbon footprint is the starting product for the main future fuels in shipping.
  • Apart from phasing-in (net) zero-carbon fuels, the increase of operational and technical efficiencies continues to be a main driver to reduce GHG emissions.
  • The contribution of sustainably produced biofuels (gas or liquid) as a future zero-carbon energy source for deep-sea shipping can play a role in particular for the transition period, as long as volume constraints are solved without compromising the sustainability.
  • To enable a faster uptake of (net) zero-carbon fuels and reduction of GHG emissions, the production of hydrogen with steam methane reforming combined with CCS or pyrolysis as an intermediate step could pose as an alternative until sufficient renewable energy (and electricity) is available.
  • The International Maritime Organization (IMO) must adopt binding measures until 2023 to phase-in net-zero and zero-carbon fuels and consider a well-to-wake approach. Otherwise, no investment in the production of these fuels can be stimulated to have respective amounts ready at our disposal for the 2030 decade.

CIMAC represents stakeholders in the large engine technology sector, which includes diesel and gas engines and gas turbines used for power generation, marine propulsion and locomotives.

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