Energy Transition for Transport
In 2015 the Paris COP21 (Conference Of the Parties) conference on climate change resulted in 196 nations agreeing to reduce their overall greenhouse emissions and endeavour to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels. In 2021 the COP26 conference highlighted the effects of global warming and pushed for faster emission reductions across all energy sectors.
Commercial vessels can learn from other sectors. Reducing vehicle emissions in the world’s major cities has been a driver for efficient electric propulsion and improved battery power storage. Automotive manufacturers including Tesla and BMW are re-defining energy possibilities for land transport. Battery-electric technology is now transitioning from high performance automobiles to city buses and the future of aviation.
Battery-Electric and Hybrid
As batteries are still evolving, they have significantly less energy density than petrol or diesel fuel. To achieve similar ranges to current vehicles automotive manufacturers in Europe, the Far East and the US have recognised that hybrid technologies such as PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle), typically utilising lithium ion battery technologies combined with an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine), will be needed for many years.
In recent years two significant developments have caused many operators of commercial vessels to consider battery-electric power and propulsion. Firstly the new emissions laws in coastal sea areas and ports. Secondly the growing land transport market for clean energy technology has enabled manufacturers to adapt high performance batteries and electric motor systems for marine applications.
Alternative Fuels for Internal Combustion Engines
Shipping and larger commercial vessels have a variety of fuels to choose from. But lack of infrastructure and fuel options away from home ports can be an issue
Alternatives include LNG (Liquified Natural Gas), Biofuels, HVO (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil), Ammonia, Methanol. Some types are suitable for smaller vessels.
Hydrogen can be used as a dual fuel in internal combustion engines. Mixtures include hydrogen combined with diesel, biofuel, synthetic fuels.
By utlising an electrolyser, hydrogen can be used as a carrier for energy that is then converted into electricity via a fuel cell and battery-electric system.