Study eyes options for shipping's low carbon future

OCTOBER 19, 2016 — A new study details a number of potential pathways for the shipping industry to transition to a low carbon future.

Called "Low Carbon Pathways 2050" the study was released by Lloyd's Register and Shipping in Changing Climates, a multi-university and cross industry research project backed by the U.K. government's Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The report underlines the need for shipping to start its decarbonization imminently and next week's meeting of IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) will consider a number of submissions on the subject.

Consistent with the Paris Agreement, the report gives particular focus on the technological and operational specifications of the global fleet and how these may change in relation to a given rate of decarbonization.

The report asks: given the best available evidence, what is a reasonable estimate of how shipping might be required to change and what does this look like?

Three future scenarios for this initial study for the period 2015–2050 were identified.

High Hydrogen, considers the availability of hydrogen, which is used in fuel cell technology, to demonstrate what can be achieved through technology and innovation.

High Bio, assumes a mid-range market penetration of biofuels in the shipping industry.

High Offsetting, considers the impact of a market-based mechanism.

These three future scenarios are compared to a business as usual (BAU) scenario with existing regulatory commitments.

Key findings of the study include:

Shipping will need to start its decarbonization imminently – as stringency increases over time, increasingly high-cost mitigation steps are required. The later decarbonization begins, the more rapid and potentially disruptive it will be for shipping.

All three scenarios are possible options for achieving absolute reductions of a scale and timeliness consistent with the Paris Agreement.

A substitute for fossil fuel will still be required as energy efficiency improvements alone will not be sufficient in the medium to long term.

Energy storage in batteries and renewable energy sources will have important roles to play, but are likely to still leave a requirement for a liquid fuel source.

Additional regulations that may be developed for other emissions need to be considered, for example; methane, black carbon and particulate matter.

Technological and operational characteristics are just some of the considerations that need to be taken into account.

Katharine Palmer, LR's Environment and Sustainability Manager, commented: "There are many issues to debate as the industry tries to consider what the strategy might be for handling the simultaneously inevitable and uncertain changes ahead. What is clear is that any future regulation needs to provide the right incentive to drive the change needed and we hope that business strategies and consistent policies can be combined to reduce shipping emissions."

Carlo Raucci of the Shipping in Changing Climates project added: "Clearly many questions remain and will need further thought and consultation. But at least this study makes clear that we need to advance thinking beyond marginal gains in energy efficiency and alternative fossil fuels if we are to identify the sector's least cost decarbonization pathways."

Following this initial study, LR and SCC will hold industry roundtable discussions on the findings of the report and facilitate the development of future possible scenarios in collaboration with the industry to create and share knowledge and tools that can contribute to reducing GHGs from shipping.

To download a PDF of the study go HERE

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