Weird Ways to Produce Green Marine Fuels
Air pollution is one of the most serious issues faced today, and shipping is part of the problem. It accounts for about 3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, and that number could jump to as much as 17% by 2050 because most vessels operate on carbon-rich fuels.
Although, the situation is changing with more shipowners opting for green marine fuels. However, only about 600 vessels in the global shipping fleet use alternative fuels. Could new science discoveries help to encourage a broader uptake? Check out what unique sources for fuel could be waiting for shipping in the future!
If you can fight fire with fire, why not try fighting air pollution with the very gas that causes it? The Oak Ridge National Laboratory researchers found an efficient way to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) into ethanol by using a catalyst without expensive elements like platinum. The new method is more cost-effective, produces a generous amount of ethanol with fewer byproducts and can be used on an industrial scale.
This biofuel produced from CO2 can be widely used for transport, for example in trucks with diesel engines. While ethanol has not been thoroughly studied for use in ships, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) claims it has potential. According to the EMSA study, it is a good alternative fuel for shipping because ethanol is clean-burning, sulphur-free, biodegradable and thanks to the innovative method can even lower the existing CO2 levels.
Ethanol is still a long way away from being used in the shipping industry, and other fuels require changes in infrastructure or engines. But what if there was a possibility to continue using diesel and protect the environment at the same time? Scientists from Montana State University have discovered a unique tree fungus in the Patagonian rainforest that could help with that.
The fungus, called Gliocladium roseum, can produce chemicals that are virtually identical to diesel and could be used in diesel engines with no modifications necessary. Although the main difference between this and regular diesel is that the compound from this fungus is environmentally-friendly and wouldn’t cause air pollution like fossil fuels.
It’s still too early to tell whether it would be possible for this tree fungus to be used on a large scale and supply the shipping sector with green marine fuels. However, there is potential, and further research could prove that a fungus could boost the clean fuel industry.
Moving away from the improbable to possible, there’s a source for green marine fuels that is actually set to be used for ships – dead fish! In 2018, Hurtigruten, a Norwegian cruise line, announced plans to power its ships with biogas produced from dead fish. Biogas can be produced from any organic refuse and since Norway’s fishing industry generates an abundance of fish waste – it is a perfect choice to fuel the cruise fleet.
Although, critics of this method warn that even though this liquid biogas used as fuel will help mitigate air pollution from ships, the production itself is not completely green. During the process of recycling the dead fish, some carbon dioxide is still created, but not as much as when producing marine fuels from other sources. However, the company is not discouraged by this and plans to have at least six fossil-free ships by 2021, running on biogas, LNG and batteries, and is set to become completely carbon-neutral by 2050.
Innovative ways to produce fuel can have a positive impact not only on the air quality but on the marine environment as well. A new factory is being built in the Port of Amsterdam that will produce fuel for diesel-run ships from previously unrecyclable plastic. Using a cutting-edge chemical recycling technology, the facility will be able to convert around 35,000 tonnes of plastic waste into more than 30 million litres of fuel per year.
The plant by the Dutch company Bin2Barrel, will lower CO2 emission by 57,000 tonnes annually and reduce 75% of costs in the supply chain. This unique production process of green marine fuels also allows sparing large amounts of land and resources, usually purposed for the production of biofuels.
Should the shipping industry look into these options for green marine fuels? Or are there more likely ways to lessen air pollution & protect the environment without sacrificing the efficiency and prosperity of the industry?
Explore the answers and possibilities at the 4th International Green & Smart Shipping Summit! Taking place on 8-9 October in Rotterdam, it will have shipping experts, representatives of ports & associations and other maritime professionals discussing environmental regulations, alternative fuels along with other relevant topics. Check out the official event website for more information: www.gssummit.org.