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.
Torstai 11.11.2021 klo 19:00 - Mikko Nikinmaa
The Glasgow climate summit has again brought a lot of promises of future actions in combatting climate change. Nations have agreed to stop deforestation by 2030, to generate carbon-free shipping and to become carbon-neutral generally by 2050 (except for India by 2070). However, so far virtually everything is just talk of future actions. And even the promises fall short of the 1.5oC temperature increase limit, which is the preferred target of the 2015 Paris Agreement. At present, the promises made (for 2030) would limit the temperature increase to 2.4oC.
And these are almost totally just promises. Since the electricity use has increased markedly in the 21st century, the proportion of it produced using renewable sources has increased only about two percentage points, from 37 to 39 %. Many countries, such as Australia are building new coal mines and oil exploration continues virtually everywhere. The social media are filled with climate-denialist propaganda, and what is very worrying is that close to 20 % of the biggest oil product companies are running ads with misinformation about climate change. Many Facebook and Twitter users believe these ads. In contrast, they say that scientists are spreading lies about climate change. It is amazing that after the heat waves, wildfire, storms and floods of this year, about 45 % of people, e.g., in Finland deny that there is any human influence on climate – and Finland is supposed to have high education level.
The fact that it is all promises with little action is shown by a couple of examples. In COP26 an alliance committing to ending oil and gas extraction was formed. As members it has Costa Rica, France, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden, Quebec, Wales and Greenland. None of the countries are significant oil and gas producers and only Denmark has committed to immediately stop issuing new oil and gas licences. The other countries have not set a date to when they will stop permitting new oil and gas projects. In Finland subsidies of peat extraction were not stopped and worldwide subsidies to fossil fuels amount to hundreds of billions of euros. An alliance for generating non-carbon shipping by 2030 has been formed, but present changes from the use of diesel oil to the use of LNG actually increases greenhouse effect, because of the engine type used. The greenhouse gas emissions could be curbed by a different type of engine. However, they would cost more, as they require catalytic converters for removing nitrogen oxides.
It appears that despite their urgency, climate actions are not accepted, if they cost anything. This is a huge problem, since a small cost now could prevent a huge, if not insurmountable cost by 2050.
Tiistai 9.11.2021 klo 16:36 - Mikko Nikinmaa
The low pressure dual fuel engines used in most LNG-fuelled ships are more or less the same as the two-stroke engines (Otto motors) of old Wartburgs and Trabants, or present-day lawn mowers and leaf blowers. Typical for all two-stroke engines is that a lot of unburnt fuel is emitted to the environment. For example, 8-hour use of a leaf blower emits about the same amount of hydrocarbons in the environment as driving a car around the world. Thus, it is no surprise that the use of low-pressure dual fuel LNG engines cause a massive increase in the emission of the very powerful greenhouse gas methane.
What is worrying, though, is that the governmental response has been that even though the negative climate effects of most LNG-fuelled ships are clear, it does not pay to set emission limits to methane in ships for two reasons. First, LNG is only a transition-phase fuel from diesel oil to hydrogen or ammonia. Second, acceptance of the limit in International Maritime Organization would take up to ten years, and even then the requirement could be enforced only for new motors/ships. Consequently, any climate effect would not be seen before 20-30 years have passed.
The situation is somewhat funny, since the most important reason for replacing diesel fuel by LNG was to decrease air pollution. Compared to diesel oil, LNG causes virtually no sulphur oxide emissions and decreases nitrogen oxide emissions drastically. The latter is actually the reason for the use of low pressure dual fuel engines: the alternative LNG-fuelled engines, high pressure dual fuel engines have higher nitrogen oxide emissions, and would require external catalytic converters for removing the nitrogen oxides like cars have. Since nitrogen oxides have emission limits, decreasing their emissions has been priority in ship building.
However, the inability of governments to do anything not only with regard to this but in general in combatting climate change is alarming. In the case of shipping, this can mean that the climate effects double if LNG becomes a major fuel. The major problem is that any climate actions should be done immediately, but most responses require 20 years or more with devastating results.