Upstream emissions are key part of shipping decarbonisation puzzle

Panelists taking part in an Institute of Marine Engineering, Science and Technology (IMarEST) webinar agreed that measuring – and reducing – upstream emissions will be a key piece in the shipping decarbonisation puzzle.

Speaking at The Upstream & Operational Emissions of Alternative Fuels for Shipping webinar today (3 November), Dr. Tristan Smith, Associate Professor in Energy and Transport at UCL, said: ‘Trillions of dollars, certainly more than a trillion dollars, will be needed across the energy system to  decarbonise – and over 80% of that is likely to be on the land side. So, when we look at the shipping decarbonisation puzzle, this is predominantly an upstream issue.’

Also speaking at the event, Petra Doubkova, a maritime transport policy analyst with the EC Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport, argued that it is ‘critically important’ to develop ‘a robust methodology to calculate and assess the emission performance of the fuels used onboard ship over the full life cycle’.

The concern is that, until we have a proven framework for assessing the full life-cycle impact of each alternative marine fuel, shipping companies cannot be certain they are investing in the right option.   

‘If we set the wrong frameworks and cause vessels to go in the wrong direction,’ warned Dr Smith, ‘we are going to have a lot of stranded assets.’

Furthermore, said Dr Smith, given that ‘billions are now flowing into green fuels’, the time scale for developing these frameworks is ‘extremely urgent’.

‘This is not a problem for two decades’ time,’ argued Dr Smith. ‘This is a problem where investment cases need to be worked up this decade in order to be approved by the end of the decade – and those investment cases will only be built up in time if we have the frameworks in place.’

Dr Smith envisaged that IMO would play a key role in developing regulations, although he said that the practical implementation could be a challenge for a body that ‘normally regulates on the vessel and not on the energy system’.

The Bunker Delivery Note (BDN), added Dr Smith, could be a ‘key mechanism’ in supporting the regulations and providing information on the provenance and full-life cycle carbon footprint of fuels.

In the opening presentations to the webinar, Camille Bourgeon, Technical Officer in the Marine Environment Division of the IMO, gave an update on recent IMO news – including the package of additional CO2 reduction measures that was agreed at last month’s meeting of the GHG Intersessional Working Group; and Aoife O’Leary, Director of Shipping, International Climate, Environmental Defense Fund, considered whether ICAO’s sustainable aviation fuels framework could provide some pointers for shipping.

Other panelists at the event included: Sunil Krishnakumar, Senior Technical Adviser, International Chamber of Shipping; Tore Longva, Principal Consultant, Maritime Regulatory Affairs, DNV GL Maritime; and Yıldız Williams, Lead Marine Consultant, Lloyd’s Register.

Ian Taylor

Ian Taylor