Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Europe Takes First Steps in Electrifying World’s Shipping Fleets

Container ships, tankers, freighters, and cruise liners are a significant source of CO2 emissions and other pollutants.  Led by Norway, Europe is beginning to electrify its coastal vessels – but the task of greening the high seas fleet is far more daunting.

The MS Ampere is one of Norway's two fully electric ferries. The country plans to launch another 60 by 2021. (Credit: Nce Maritime Clean Tech) Click to Enlarge.
If the electrification of the world’s automobile and truck fleet represents a daunting challenge, then converting the global shipping fleet from heavily polluting fuel oil and diesel to renewable sources of energy is no less complex.  It’s one thing to use electricity and lithium ion batteries to power a car ferry across a Norwegian fjord, with charging stations at both ends of the run.  It’s quite another to power the more than 50,000 tankers, freighters, and cargo carriers in the world’s merchant fleets across oceans.  International shipping now accounts for about 3 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, and this could shoot up dramatically to 17 percent by 2050 if other sectors decarbonize while shipping emissions climb higher, as they have unremittingly in recent years.  The booming cruise ship industry has become a significant problem recently, emitting large quantities of carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide, among other pollutants, according to the German environmental group, NABU.

Yet many analysts say that even though the technology to power large, ocean-going vessels on electricity is not yet ripe, the shipping industry’s conservative mindset is also a major impediment to the sector’s transformation.  “The industry doesn’t really believe that a switch from bunker fuels is possible,” says Faig Abbasov, a shipping expert with Transport & Environment — a Brussels-based international environmental organization — referring to the fuel oils used to power ships.  “And it’s countries with huge fleets that are obstructing changes that would drive forward the electrification of marine transport.”

Abbasov says the sector would change much more quickly if ship fuels were taxed — which they currently are not – and electricity for powering ships wasn’t taxed, as is currently the case across Europe.  “This means that ship owners sticking with the dirtiest fuels are given a free ride,” he says.

Despite these challenges, Norway is steadily making progress toward converting its shipping fleet to run on renewable energy.  “It’s really impressive — the transformation of shipping is beginning right now, it’s happening very fast, and not just in Norway,” says Borghild Tønnessen-Krokan, director of Forum for Development and Environment, an independent Norwegian NGO that has for years pushed for low-carbon transportation.  “Shipping is part of a bigger green revolution in transportation in Norway,” he added, noting that more than half of all Norwegian cars sold last year were hybrid or electric.

The flurry of activity in electric shipping may begin to address the glaring omission of shipping in the Paris Climate Accord, which did not cover maritime transport.  Shipping industry lobbyists and nations such as China and Brazil aggressively fought the inclusion of ship emissions in the accord, claiming that such a truly international sector couldn’t be held responsible for emissions in the same way that countries are.  The EU and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) have set up monitoring criteria and energy efficiency standards that will become more stringent over time, but the IMO, at the behest of the industry and high-profile shipping countries, has resisted meaningful and binding emissions reduction goals for shipping companies.  The EU has pushed back, threatening that it will include the sector’s CO2 pollution in its emissions-trading scheme if the IMO fails to take significant action.
Elsewhere in Europe, the electrification of maritime travel is gradually beginning to take off.  Late last year, Finland launched its first electric car ferry, and dozens of hybrid ferries and electric-powered ferries are scheduled to go into service in the coming years.  Finland’s cutting-edge maritime research vessel, the Aranda, has switched to hybrid propulsion.  The ship, which belongs to the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), has benefited in more ways than one from adding an electric power system.  The Aranda is equipped with a front-end ice-cutter that slashes through Arctic ice fields en route to monitoring stations and other winter research locations.  Since the electric motor has higher rotational force than the diesel motor, it is significantly more effective at powering the cutter to break up thick ice cover, says Jukka Pajala, a senior adviser at SYKE.  Moreover, the electric motor doesn’t expel pollutants that exacerbate the ice melt caused by global warming.  And the electric motor is virtually silent, a critical advantage for researching marine life. 

Denmark and Sweden are cooperating on two large eight-ton, electric passenger ferries that will travel the seven miles between Helsingborg, Sweden and Helsingör, Denmark.  This summer, the Dutch company Port-Liner will unveil five all-electric, driverless, emissions-free barges, dubbed the “Tesla ships,” that will navigate the canals linking the ports of Amsterdam, Antwerp, and Rotterdam.  The EU supported the 100 million-euro project with 8.5 million euros.

Despite these signs of progress, serious national and international regulations and incentives on converting the shipping industry to renewable sources of energy must be enacted, including a ban on heavy fuel oil in the Arctic to reduce the emissions of sooty, heat-absorbing pollution particles.  “The technology is there,” says Tønnessen-Krokan of Norway’s Forum for Development and Environment.  “Incentives have worked to make it happen, but there have to be sticks as well as carrots.  Shipping should have been subject to emissions targets years ago.”

Read more at Europe Takes First Steps in Electrifying World’s Shipping Fleets

No comments:

Post a Comment