With the advent of new and troubling climatic phenomena, governments and international organizations all across the world are scrambling for solutions to the increasing carbon and GHG content in the atmosphere. The spillover of this is being felt in the marine industry as well, such as IMO’s 2030 and 2050 goals. Methanol is shaping up to become a promising alternative fuel, as it ticks most of the boxes that shipping operators desire in a fuel of the future. And acceptability of methanol is increasing probably due to the consideration that a perfect fuel that solves all our problems may never be discovered in time.
What Boxes Does Methanol Tick on the Perfect Fuel List?
Methanol has many things going for it but indisputably the most important factor in its favor is the maturity of the technology in handling methanol. Methanol has many uses in production and manufacturing other than it being used as a fuel, such as being used in the production of polymers namely, plastics, paints, varnishes, and cleaning products. All this has put methanol on the list of top 5 transported commodities in the world already, with a remarkable base of knowledge regarding the handling and transport of methanol present. This is a considerable edge over competitors such as Hydrogen and electricity used to drive ships as there is a well-developed infrastructure and supply chain already available for the production and transport of methanol.
If the global shipping industry were a country, it would be the world’s sixth-highest CO2 emitter, ahead of Germany. As an international industry, shipping was not covered by the 2015 Paris climate change agreement that focused on individual nations’ responsibility for critical emissions. But as unprecedented heatwaves, forest fires and flooding raise global awareness of climate change, the shipping industry is starting to make up for lost time.
How significant is their response? And was Maersk’s recent announcement of investing over US$1.4bn in eight post-Panamax containerships that can run on methanol or bunker fuel just a drop in the proverbial ocean? Let’s take a closer look at how shipping is responding to the climate crisis.
FleetMon supports ETH researchers to find the answer.
Fighting climate change demands action in all sectors. International shipping faces the challenge of long lifetimes of vessels compared to other modes of transportation. Decisions on energy carriers and propulsion technologies that are made now have a long-lasting impact on the emissions of the sector.
A research group at the Institute of Energy Technology at ETH Zürich led by Prof. Dr. Konstantinos Boulouchos developed a fleet turnover model for the shipping sector to estimate its future CO2 emissions up to 2050. Thereby, the CO2 emissions of existing ships and those of new ships entering the fleet yield yearly emission figures. However, up until recently, a missing puzzle piece for such models has been how long existing ships will actually still be in service. Missing or prohibitively expensive data has prevented analyses on this topic.
Researchers at ETH Zurich provide new insights on the emission reduction potential of shore-side electricity using AIS data from FleetMon.
The urgency for climate action expressed by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demands a rapid market uptake of CO2 reduction measures in all sectors. For international shipping, the European Commission has frequently emphasized the important role of providing shore-side electricity to ships at berth, being a rather simple way of reducing CO2 emissions of ships, but also due to considerable co-benefits: Local air pollution in sea ports is primarily caused by emissions of ships at berth and poses a severe threat for premature mortality on the local residents.
Climate change is shaping to be one of the most prominent threats so far in the 21th century. With the shipping industry being an inextricable part of global logistics, it contributes to about 18 percent of some air pollutants. The International Maritime Organization (IMO), with this in view has adopted regulations to reduce emissions of Greenhouse Gases (GHG). The directive in MARPOL annex 6 to reduce sulfur emissions to 0.5% is currently being enforced since 1st January 2020.