The goal is zero carbon, but this is some way off and, with climate change an urgent issue today, transition solutions are also needed that will have impact today. However, these solutions need to provide answers without restricting progress in the future. This is why RINA is working closely with engine manufacturers, ship designers, shipyards and operators to help form a practical and sustainable pathway to decarbonization.
Ships in the future may well use ammonia, hydrogen or bio-methanol as zero carbon fuel solutions – and RINA is working in all these areas to help find long-term solutions to decarbonize the industry. But this will take time and, today, there are still limitations with technology but also with the economical and logistical viability of these green fuels. For example, the energy per unit volume present in fuel oil is much more (x6) than in the same volume of hydrogen. To maintain the same vessel range and speed, therefore, will require huge fuel tanks. To make hydrogen a practical solution will require research into how to reduce the quantity of fuel needed through efficiency, energy conservation and changes in operational approaches. Along with the challenges of supply limitation and fuel cost, there is still a long way to go before hydrogen-fuelled vessels are commonplace. So where should ship owners be looking for solutions today?
New builds need designs that will meet IMO2030/2050. They need to offer the flexibility to adapt and not constrain ship owners going forward as alternative fuels develop and move forward. LNG is the cleanest of the fossil fuels, producing considerably lower carbon emissions than heavy fuel oil (HFO). It produces negligible sulphur dioxide emissions, reduces the output of nitrogen oxides by around 85% and almost completely eliminates particulate matter. It offers a practical and economically sustainable solution today and adaptability for the future.
For example, a novel propulsion engine arrangement developed in close partnership between RINA and the innovative marine technology company, Wärtsilä, offers a way to achieve a reduction close to 50% from the Energy Efficiency Design Index EEDI reference level value and immediate compliance with IMO2030 requirements today. The arrangement uses just two 4 stroke dual fuel (DF) engines with options for electric power backup from batteries or a small DF generator when the ship is idle. The very modern 4 stroke engines have features that ensure exceptional efficiency, reliability and ease of maintenance at a cost no higher than traditional alternatives. The design allows for additional hull optimization, requires less machinery and offers full redundancy, lower capex, reduced operational complexity and optimized fuel usage, helping meet the needs and regulations for reduced emissions.
Turning to LNG today further provides owners with the flexibility needed to adapt to future fuels such as ammonia, hydrogen or bio- and synthetic methane. It is not yet clear which of the new fuels will offer the most viable zero-carbon alternative based on cost and availability of each option. By selecting LNG, owners will not be stuck with a wrong decision that shortens the viable lifespan of their vessels.
Alongside transition fuels and new, high efficiency engines, digital solutions offer an essential part of meeting emissions targets through fleet optimization. RINA has developed cutting edge tools for fleet management, providing real-time monitoring to identify areas where efficiency can be increased. With over 350 vessels already using this technology and the number rising quickly, the increasing volume of data is enabling even deeper analysis and insights to help further increase efficiency. The information collected and analysed provides ship owners with valuable intelligence about the performance of vessels throughout the fleet and helps them to develop best practices, make smarter decisions and significantly increase overall fleet operating efficiency.
The process of decarbonization is a journey of many steps and will not be achieved through a single solution. By working closely with all stakeholders in the shipping industry, we can move forward together to overcome challenges and start to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. RINA recognizes the need for practical, economically viable solutions and is proactively working to help the industry towards a safe and clear pathway to the future. Solutions such as the arrangement of the Wärtsilä 31DF engines and maximizing the use of data available today through smart, digital solutions, provide ways to start this journey without risk and without the need for a crystal ball to see which technologies and fuel alternatives will prevail in the future.
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