This is my short comment on the article by the LloydsList reflecting on DNV-GL warning that ”hydrogen will not drive emissions reduction” for shipping, according to their latest energy transition outlook. Stay tuned for further elaboration on the below.
It is certainly not “crazy” to think about hydrogen propelling large vessels in the near future. Yes indeed, to start with, there are a large number of technological challenges to overcome (and also regulatory). But a combination of shore-to-ship bunkering, onboard hydrogen production, and most importantly – bunkering at sea from energy islands (e.g. the ZEEDS project, which despite using ammonia as an output is an excellent proof of concept) and of course improvement in efficiencies, makes hydrogen probably our best bet for having clean and safe long-haul shipping segment. If we are to think outside the box, it simply makes perfect sense to power vessels using the water they are sailing on. As I write here in regard to LNG – yes, it is a fantastic fuel for meeting air regulations and right now “the easy choice”. But, it is considered a bridge fuel for a good reason. It should indeed be a bridge fuel to cleaner molecules (such as hydrogen). And we should make sure that we go over that bridge as quickly as possible as if the ground was burning, which it is.
Further investing in assets that are only LNG capable – bunkering and distribution infrastructure and LNG powered ships – will run the risk of missing the very small window of opportunity to revert the worst of climate change. In regard to Ammonia: Yes, as of today it is more cost-effective, but if we had one pot of money to invest in the right technology do we want to invest in a fuel that is highly toxic? Do we want to replace HFO with Ammonia in the Arctic for example?
Ending on a positive note: we have to play the long-term game here, we have to find a solution that each stakeholder can see a role in, so we all pull in the same direction. Hydrogen (blue) is already recognised by the gas sector as the way forward, and for a good reason!
My own efforts are focused on bunkering and distribution infrastructure that can supply LNG/natural gas today but be hydrogen ready (have a look at this appetizer from the blog). This, in turn, will support hydrogen’s role to act as a catalyst for sector integration. We have to break the chicken-and-egg for the future clean fuels, just as we did for LNG (e.g. the European Alternative Fuels Directive 2014/94/EU analysed by T&E here). The best investment decision is a no-regret investment. In this case, it is an investment that is future-proof and in line not only with the current policy and regulatory frameworks but the ones to come, which unfortunately will probably be made in a state of climate emergency.
*Cover image from Energy Observer