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Shell outlines its path to decarbonising through hydrogen and fuel cells to power ships

30 Sep 2020

Royal Dutch Shell Plc on Tuesday (29 September) published a new report Decarbonising Shipping: Setting Shell’s Course, highlighting the important role hydrogen and fuel cells could play in achieving a decarbonised shipping sector. 

The report sets out how Shell is accelerating progress in its own operations and across the industry and calls for the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to adopt a clear trajectory to net-zero emissions by 2050.

The company noted this publication builds on the optimism and momentum of the interviewees in the Decarbonising Shipping: All Hands on Deck report published in July 2020 by Shell and Deloitte. 

“The shipping industry needs to develop the new technologies, fuels and infrastructure required for a net-zero emissions sector at a pace never previously seen,” said Grahaeme Henderson, Global Head of Shell Shipping & Maritime. 

“This will require the determination of all of those at the forefront of this transition. We have listened to our customers and partners in the sector and we have set ourselves an ambitious course. I hope that by doing so, openly and transparently, others will be encouraged to join us and help create a net-zero emissions future for shipping.”

In its new report, Shell’s analysis points to hydrogen with fuel cells as the zero-emissions technology which has the greatest potential to help the shipping sector achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Shell added it will seek to advance its research in this area, as hydrogen is projected to benefit from build-out across other industry and transport sectors, making it potentially more cost competitive than alternative zero-emissions fuels.

Meanwhile the company urged the shipping sector to not simply wait for its zero-emissions fuel to emerge as a zero-emissions fuel is not likely to be available on a commercial scale globally until the 2030s.

It is essential that the industry takes action to reduce emissions now with solutions available today, it added. Solutions such as wind assist, air lubrication, advanced engine lubricants and digital optimisation technologies must all be deployed to close the gap to net-zero emissions as much as possible. 

Shell noted that liquefied natural gas (LNG) can also help lower greenhouse gas emissions today.

Compared to heavy fuel oil, from extraction to combustion LNG reduces greenhouse gas emissions by up to 21% for 2-stroke slow speed engines and up to 15% for 4-stroke medium speed engines. It can also be used with fuel cells to aid the development of this key technology.

In this way, LNG can play a critical role in helping the industry to lower its emissions today and develop technology for the zero-emissions fuels of the future, while continuing to address methane slippage.

Shell said it has set a course guided by its belief that collaboration is essential, and by the IMO principles that shipping’s emissions must be phased out as soon as possible and the sector’s emissions must peak as quickly as possible. A selection of key actions Shell will undertake are to:

  • call for the IMO to adopt a clear trajectory to a net-zero emissions shipping sector by 2050;
  • develop the experience and standards for use of hydrogen in a marine environment and enable commercial deployment of hydrogen across sectors;
  • establish a consortium to develop and trial fuel cells on a commercial deep-sea vessel;
  • develop a set of performance standards for application on future new-build vessels for all ship types with the aim to deliver up to 25% emissions savings;
  • implement a programme of emissions data collection across Shell’s internationally traded time and voyage charters with the intent to publish annual carbon intensity data;
  • double Shell’s existing LNG bunkering infrastructure on key international trade routes by the mid-2020s;
  • further build the commercial case for our unique industry offering of carbon neutral lubricants through development of our nature-based solutions portfolio; and
  • collaborate deliberately and decisively with those at the leading edge of the transition in the sector in order to accelerate decarbonisation. This will include, for example, working within the Getting to Zero coalition, and developing an industry-based coalition covering the entire value chain for US and Canadian cabotage shipping operations.

Shell stated that it is setting its course to help accelerate the shipping sector’s decarbonisation pathway. However, there is no single technology which will achieve this, and it will be a multi-decade journey.

Consequently, Shell noted that its response will evolve over time. Today, however, this report seeks to stimulate the opportunities and partnerships needed within the industry so the company can be most effective in working with its customers and partners on a net-zero emissions future.

The full report “Decarbonising Shipping: Setting Shell’s Course” is available here.

Related: Shell Industry Perspective: 95% of shipping executives view decarbonisation as important


Photo credit: Shell
Published: 30 September, 2020

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