Zero-carbon shipping by 2050?

Maanantai 10.7.2023 klo 16:24 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The International Maritime Organization took a huge step forward in the fight against climate change, when it agreed that shipping would become carbon-free by 2050. Earlier, IMO has been quite conservative, and reluctant to take significant steps forward, so the agreement is even more noteworthy.

The reason for a radical change is mainly that many of the island and coastal countries, which naturally have shipping as a major business, are really suffering from climate change. However, also other countries with the notable exception of Russia (they are doing nothing right at the moment) have finally woken up because of heat waves, wildfires, droughts and floods.

The bold agreement is presently only paper, so it must be implemented. Thus, the first question is: is implementation possible? The question is very acute, since the life-length of a ship is up to 60 years. Thus, the ships built today are probably sailing at 2050. The initial reductions in decreasing carbon dioxide emissions are easily done, as the fuel of ships has been the worst source of carbon dioxide of any of the fuels. So, things are getting somewhat better, when the old ships are replaced by new ones using, e.g., liquified natural gas (LNG) as fuel. However, natural gas still produces carbon dioxide, so it cannot be the final solution. One possibility is to mop up the carbon dioxide produced, but that isn’t a real solution, either, as carbon dioxide is still produced, but is filtered away. The sustainable solutions are new motors using ammonia or hydrogen as fuels. Several ship motor industries have done a great deal of work in developing such motors, and it is quite certain that within the near future we hear the news that the first ships without any carbon dioxide production have been launched.

The ammonia and hydrogen need to be produced without fossil fuels, but that has become increasingly possible. What Putin’s Russia has done, when it tried to cut off especially the European energy production, is to speed up the transition to green energy. Putting everything together: reaching zero-carbon shipping by 2050 is difficult but doable.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, shipping, hydrogen economy, IMO