Shell: Net zero requires collaboration on an unprecedented scale

‘It’s not just about collaboration in shipping, it goes across into road, aviation and heavy industry, and this is where Shell can play a key role – we have links and customer relationships and we can bridge those to the benefit of the shipping industry,’ says Grahaeme Henderson.

Shell’s VP, Shipping & Maritime outlined the steps the energy major is taking on decarbonisation during a one-to-one discussion with Theodore Jadick, President and CEO of DNB Markets, at last week’s Capital Link New York forum.

Henderson suggested that pushing forward on vessel operational efficiency was a good starting point on the journey to net zero.

‘We see energy efficient technologies as the foundation block for anything in decarbonisation,’ he said.

‘They have a strong business case because they reduce fuel costs which reduces emissions – in Shell we have seen some very handsome returns.’

Henderson said that Shell is in the process of fully digitalising its ships, working with its own ships and chartered vessels on optimisation in areas such as routing and engine performance.

The company is installing air lubrication technology and is already seeing emissions savings of 7%. Similarly, the adoption of wind technology such as rotor sails is also delivering 8% emissions reductions. Shell has also developed a low-cost emissions-reducing software, JAWS, which it is making available to the wide shipping industry.

‘When you add this up you get to reasonably high reductions in emissions without doing too much in terms of what we have got available,’ Henderson explained.

Moving on to Shell’s commitment to LNG-fuelled shipping, he noted that: ‘We are doubling our existing LNG bunkering infrastructure by the mid-2020s and we have recently signed up for another eight LNG carriers and these will be the lowest emissions ships in their class on the water.’

On these vessels, said Henderson, ‘we can see an [emissions] reduction of 60% against the International Maritime Organization’s 2008 baseline.

‘This is just with energy efficient technology and LNG – and we are looking to reduce this even further.’

Looking at the viability of other alternative fuels, Henderson said they all presented challenges – whether it be toxicity, or their energy density and ignition properties. However, ‘Hydrogen is the fuel that we think has the biggest chance of success,’ he said, highlighting that investments in hydrogen being made by other industry sectors such as aviation mean that shipping will not have to shoulder all the financial burden of production and distribution infrastructure costs.

In the area of hydrogen R&D, Shell is already working on a large-scale hydrolysis project in Rotterdam.

‘[The focus is on] the provision of hydrogen to our refineries there and that will start to develop that crucial infrastructure link to ports,’ noted Henderson.

Shell is also part of the HySTRA consortium which is working on the development of a hydrogen supply vessel. Shell will manage the vessel after its completion next year, ‘to really understand the large-scale distribution of hydrogen,’ he said.

Henderson also highlighted the potential of fuel cells. This technology is ‘far more efficient in terms of energy through the cell than the internal combustion engine,’ he noted, ‘and we are launching a consortium later this year to demonstrate their suitability.

‘At the moment they have been used on shore but, of course, on a ship with movement and in more challenging environmental conditions we have got to make sure that they are robust.’

He continued: ‘The great thing is that fuel cells can operate today using LNG so that allows us to develop that technology and benefit from the lower emissions, and then as we scale up those new fuels, such as hydrogen, we can switch to them later.’

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes