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Thursday, January 4, 2024

Addressing shipping emissions with Professor Alice Larkin in interview with Kevin Anderson

Shipping emissions is one of those niche areas, part of Transport emissions, that needs to be tackled. There is both a huge freight and logistics component, a smaller passenger component and the tourism component of cruise ships.

Most of the interview is focussed on the Freight component. About 3 percent of global emissions are due to shipping. This is about equivalent to the emissions of Germany.

The shipping sector is large, complex, with many different vessels, many actors. 

About a third of all goods transported by ship are fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas. So the implementation of the Paris Agreement should see a reduction in transport of fossil fuels.

Other major areas are the transport of consumer goods in container vessels, and bulk carriers such as carrying iron ore or minerals or food and grains.

Some discussion of the role of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which regulates international shipping. Domestic shipping and shipping emissions would be governed by national regulations.

Shipping transportis around 90% of world trade, creates about 1 billion tonnes of greenhouse gasses, or nearly 3 per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. It is about the same amount as Germany or Japan.

In July 2023 Pacific Island nations including Solomon Islands and Marshall Islands, proposed the introduction of a $100 per tonne levy on maritime emissions in order to make cleaner fuels cost-competitive with the dirtier heavy fuel oil that is the industry standard. 

But Australia appears to have joined Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, Brazil and other major states, to oppose this Pacific initiative for a levy on maritime emissions. 

IMO Conference outcomes summarised at Climate Citizen: Shipping levy on maritime emissions opposed by Australia at IMO conference::

  • failure to agree on absolute emission reduction targets for 2030 and 2040, 
  • identified “indicative checkpoints” of at least 20%, striving for 30% emission reduction by 2030, 
  • at least 70%, striving for 80% reduction by 2040. 
  • aim to reach only net-zero “by or around, i.e., close to 2050”, depending on “national circumstances”.
  • Green fuel mandates deferred.
  • “pricing of greenhouse gas emissions” (a levy), deferred, earliest would be in 2027.

Decarbonising shipping is also compared with decarbonising aviation in this discussion. While there are few options to decarbonising aviation necessitating looking at demand side restrictions, there is recognition in the shipping sector of room for manouvre. "It has quite a lot of options on the technology side but also on the operations side.

The IMO originally set a target of 50 percent emissions reduction by 2050, but has already upgraded that to full decarbonisation by 2050, without offsetting. It has also recognised the importance of near term targets, setting both indicative and strive targets for 2030 and 2040. The 2030 target is 20 percent reduction on 2008 levels by 2030. "Their strive target of 30 percent is much closer to the Paris Agreement 1.5C target".

There are both technology and operational changes that can be made in the near term for existing ships:

Slow steaming. There is a cubed relationship between ship speed and energy consumption.

Changing practices such as 

Retro-fit ships with wind propulsion technology. This technology is now very advanced, not one size fits all. Fletner rotors, advanced sail technologies and kites.

Route optimisation in combination with wind technology. On one route up to 60 percent saving modelled

Alternative fuels. Bio-methanol, ammonia, hydrogen, batteries. These fuels have many challenges. 

On ammonia use as a fuel the safety aspect was raised, as well as competition for ammonia with the fertiliser industry. At the moment Fertiliser uses gas based methane reformation to produce gray ammonia. Electrolyisis could produce hydrogen converted to green ammonia, but shipping use of ammonia will compete with decarbonising fertiliser sector with green ammonia. 

Now you see why Andrew Forrest's Fortescue company has invested in electrolyser manufacturing in Queensland in 2021 to establish the green hydrogen economy. Fortescue has part converted one supply ship to run on ammonia fuel. See also Fortescue Unveils Ammonia-Fueled Ship Calling for Regulations to Catch-Up - Dec 3 (Maritime Executive)

Ports also need to change to provide renewables based power to ships when in Port to reduce use of shipping fuels (and pollution) when in port.

An interesting discussion.

Interview with Alice Larkin December 12, 2023, by Kevin Anderson at CEMUS, Uppsala University. These are the links provided with the video:

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