Sustainable Shipping for Sustainable Planet

Sustainable shipping for a sustainable planet

Sep. 24 2020 - 4 min

Combating climate change is one of the primary challenges of our era. From energy, to construction, to retail (to name just a few sectors), industries are committing to limiting their environmental impact. The shipping industry is no exception, with governing and regulatory bodies like the European Union and the International Maritime Organization setting targets to vastly limit shipping’s environmental impact. Key objectives include a 70% reduction in CO2 emissions per transport work1 and a minimum 50% reduction in total annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

As a Business to Business to Society company, Bureau Veritas has supported its clients for nearly 200 years to shape a world of trust and promote responsible progress. By helping players in the maritime and offshore industry to comply with industrial standards and rules, and focused on the pathways to  zero carbon maritime transport, the group's experts are enabling client and stakeholder responses to the major societal challenges of the energy transition and the protection of natural resources.

Shipping: a leader in green transportation

The transportation industry – which includes airlines, railways, overland vehicles, shipping and more – is responsible for about 25% of the world’s CO2 emissions2. Ships stand out for their minimal emissions compared to the volumes of cargo they move, accounting for only 2.7% of total global CO2 emissions3.

But the marine industry is urgently exploring new ways to improve its environmental performance. This is especially important as shipping is expected to grow significantly over the next few decades. Through the development of sustainable fuels, the use of alternative propulsion systems, and support for the construction and operation of offshore wind farms, the marine industry is spearheading the energy transition.

Exploring today’s clean marine fuels

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is a well-known alternative fuel in the maritime shipping industry. Switching to LNG can reduce GHG lifecycle emissions by up to 21%4, because LNG contains lower levels of carbon than traditional fuel oil. Each rear, the number of LNG-powered ships being built increases. As of today, they comprise 24% of the global order book5.

Liquefied petroleum gas is another fuel for lowering carbon output which is both easy to handle and store. While current levels of production are insufficient for use across the global fleet, it will be part of the larger push toward decarbonization. Methanol and ethanol have a similar profile to liquefied petroleum gas, with the added condition that ships using these fuels must be carefully designed and operated, given the gases’ flammable nature.

Bureau Veritas experts use key guidelines and rules to assess the design of LNG- and LPG-powered ships, modify ships to use LNG as fuel and keep natural gas infrastructure safe. We also provide fuel-testing services to ensure clients meet environmental requirements with whichever fuel they choose.

Bureau Veritas provides expertise for LNG-powered ships worldwide. Notable projects include the Jacques Saadé, the world’s largest LNG-fueled containership, which was recently delivered for ship owner CMA CGM.

The path to carbon-neutral and carbon-free fuels tomorrow

Biofuels, including liquid biogas and synthetic natural gas6, are carbon-neutral fuel options being developed and tested by major maritime stakeholders. Both biogas and synthetic gas can use existing LNG pipelines and distribution networks and can be used with current propulsion technologies. This makes them attractive fuel options, though there is still work to be done to ensure the sustainable and affordable mass production of both fuels.

Further down the line, the list of clean fuels for ships will include hydrogen, methanol and ammonia. They produce zero GHG emissions when renewably sourced, and are alternative solutions for both internal combustion engines and fuel cells. Grey ammonia is already widely available7, although marine infrastructure8 needs further development before ammonia will be ready for general deployment within the industry. Zero carbon deep sea shipping needs the development of a renewable energy-based hydrogen industry from which suitable fuels like ammonia or methanol can be derived for ship propulsion.

Bureau Veritas is participating in various joint industry projects to identify and eliminate technical and safety risks for vessels propelled by new alternative fuels.

New opportunities for batteries and fuel cell technology

Marine researchers, engineers, equipment suppliers and manufacturers have already come a long way in developing electrically powered ships. Ships with batteries onboard can be partly or fully powered by electricity, and several countries are already operating electric ferries and inland navigation vessels. This solution is especially sought after for ships carrying passengers over short distances and those that operate near populated areas.

Fuel cells are another technology that shows promise for the maritime industry. These devices are compatible with a range of low-carbon fuels, converting energy stored in molecular bonds into electrical energy that can be used to sustainably power ships. While the technology is still nascent, it could help reduce GHG emissions by ~30%9 for ships using LNG as fuel – and up to 100% for ships using hydrogen produced from renewable electricity.

To help the maritime industry safely develop these solutions, Bureau Veritas has worked on guidelines for fuel cells and batteries by offering guidance for the installation and use of batteries onboard, and by helping prepare ship owners to this transition.

How marine experts support offshore wind farms

Governments worldwide are seeking ways to decarbonize their energy supply by harnessing the powers of nature. For some time, wind farms have been developed offshore, converting the powerful gusts sweeping over the ocean into renewable energy for a variety of industries.

The maritime industry is playing its part in the development of wind energy by providing the offshore service and construction vessels needed to build and maintain wind farms. These ships are among those likely to use alternative fuels and produce minimum levels of emissions.

To support this effort, Bureau Veritas has rules for wind farm service ships. In addition, our marine and offshore experts have established guidelines dedicated to the development of offshore wind turbines.

While there is currently no single solution for eliminating GHG emissions from shipping, a mix of technologies, alternative fuels and energy sources are steadily reducing the industry’s environmental footprint. By collaborating with industry players and capitalizing on its expertise and in-depth knowledge of the marine sector, Bureau Veritas Group is helping the shipping industry set the course for a new era of sustainable development.

1 A measure of the quantity of cargo/number of people and the transport distance sailed by a vessel during specific quarter
2 Everything You Need to Know About the Fastest-Growing Source of Global Emissions: Transport, World Resources Institute, 2019
3 Decarbonising Shipping: All Hands On Deck, Shell International, 2020
4 Based on well-to-wake assessment over a 20 year time period (Global Warming Potential) and depending on engine type; Life Cycle GHG Emissions Study on the Use of LNG as Marine Fuel with Addendum, SGMF, 2020.
5 By gross tonnage; Clarkson’s Research Shipping Intelligence Weekly, August 2020.
6 Synthetic natural gases include synthetic methane/substitute natural gas (SNG)
7 Global production levels for ammonia are around 180 million metric tons per year; Ammonfuel – an industrial view of ammonia as a marine fuel, Hafnia et al, August 2020
8 For ammonia distribution and bunkering, and the production of green ammonia
9 Assuming the use of LNG as fuel, GHG emissions from ships can be reduced by around 30% as compared to conventional dual-fuel LNG engines