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Hydrogen, Nuclear, and Vegetable Oil: LR future fuels findings

Lloyd’s Register has conducted a study in conjunction with University College London to establish shipping’s fuel mix by 2030.

The study examines the fuel mix likely for deep-sea container vessels, bulk carriers, general cargo vessels and tankers, making predictions for three scenarios: “status quo”, in which countries variously maintain their current trajectory; “global commons” where countries begin global collaboration to reduce carbon and grow sustainably; and “competing nations” in which states act exclusively in their own interest.

LR’s findings predict that shipping emissions will double by 2030 if present rates continue, as per the “status quo” scenario. While heavy fuel oil – by then low-sulphur (LSHFO) - would likely continue to represent the majority share of marine fuel by 2030 at 47-66%, the fuel would contain increased levels of biofuel additives such as straight vegetable oil (SVO), reducing emissions of carbon.

LNG, meanwhile, would not reach more than an 11% share of the deep-sea-fleet fuel mix by 2030.

LR’s global strategic marketing manager Luis Benito explained that there are alternative fuels “which qualify to be used right now”. Many of these included other gases; “Methanol is a fuel of today but not many people have adopted it. It’s a big possibility,” said Benito. “Ethane as a fuel is niche, potentially out of exploiting shale gas in the US; LPG as a fuel is niche - we have given approval in principle for a MAN dual fuel engine for burning Ethane/LPG.” Glycerine as ship fuel was also “very niche”.

Writing off second and third-generation biofuels as not cost-effective for the near future, Benito also relegated the possibility of nuclear powered ships to beyond 2030. “Nuclear is not popular, although it is available. Maybe in the distant future the public perception will change about using nuclear as fuel.”

Dimitris Argyros (pictured), LR’s lead environmental specialist, asserted that in the global commons scenario, in which industries would pay a high premium for their carbon emissions, hydrogen may emerge as a zero-emissions fuel of the future. “The global commons scenario will see the highest increase in trade, yet from 2025 we see a gradual decline in the fuel demand,” Argyros explained, “the reason for that being the increase in energy efficiency of the fleet, which is stimulated by regulatory conditions – effectively a carbon price.”  

The study was conducted following increased interest in marine fuel trends on the back of LR’s Marine Trends 2030 last year. “There’s been very little analysis of the long-term in the shipping industry; everyone seems to be focussed on the next five minutes,” said LR marine director Tom Boardley. “It struck a note of optimism.

“A lot of questions came out of Marine Trends 2030, particularly relating to future fuel. The study didn’t really take account of the shale gas revolution; it was happening while the study was taking place. A lot of the data was frozen in 2010, when the impact of shale gas in North America hadn’t been appreciated."

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