A ‘compelling case’ for electrofuels

A new report prepared by Ricardo for Ocean Conservancy has argued that there is a ‘compelling case’ for the ‘widespread adoption’ of electrofuels by the shipping industry.

‘Electrofuels’ are synthetically derived from hydrogen or ammonia which are produced using renewable energy, and used as a drop-in replacement for fossil fuels.

The Zero-Carbon for Shipping Report, which Ocean Conservancy has released today (21 September) as part of Climate Week NYC, presents South and Central American case studies that demonstrate how existing technologies, such as electrofuels and renewable energy, could ‘do a lot of the work required to transition the shipping industry to a zero-carbon future’.

According to Ricardo: ‘South and Central America have a lively shipping industry with total imports and exports to the region respectively of around $1 trillion. Combined with increasing wind and other renewable energy sources, South and Central America are primed to lead the shipping industry away from fossil fuel dependency.’

Nick Ash, Ricardo’s alternative fuels principal consultant, commented: ‘We need governments to work with and encourage private investors in the region, to further develop local infrastructure that will allow a transition from fossil fuels to electrofuels.

‘Ports throughout South and Central America with renewable potential nearby are already great candidates to build electrofuel plants for their own use and ultimately, to provide zero-carbon refuelling along busy shipping lanes.’

The report highlights an example of implementation where the adoption of electrofuels in Porto do Pecém, Brazil, would not only decarbonise the local shipping industry, but could also provide a carbon-free source of fuel for local steel and chemical manufacturing.

Examining the practicalities of creating an electrofuels supply infrastructure for ships, the report notes that electrofuels don’t contain as much energy per unit volume as fossil fuels, so with similar onboard storage capacity, zero-carbon ships will need to stop at ports more frequently to refuel.

However, Ricardo proposes that Puerto Shougang Hierro in Peru would be ‘an ideal location to provide refuelling for zero-carbon ships’.

Ricardo continues: ‘The port is situated is along a busy trade route and has the ability to greatly expand its wind and solar infrastructure to provide enough power to support the increased shipping and refuelling activity. Further developing the renewable energy infrastructure will also reduce the costs of renewable energy for other sectors all while providing jobs for people who relied on the fossil fuel industry for their livelihoods.’

While the report focuses on South and Central America, Ricardo says that case studies in the report are ‘archetypal examples’ which show how ‘ports and ships around the world’ could draw on existing technology to achieve a zero-carbon future.

Dan Hubbell, manager of Ocean Conservancy’s shipping emissions campaign, emphasised how electrofuels can be a global solution to a global challenge: ‘The climate crisis is already here and the shipping industry must do its part to transition away from fossil fuels now. A zero-carbon future for global shipping is possible with electrofuels playing an important role in delivering powerful benefits for people, economies and our planet.’

To download a copy of the Ricardo prepared Zero-Carbon for Shipping Report, visit the Ocean Conservancy website:

Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor