World - Stepping up to decarbonise the maritime industry

In recent years, shipping’s emissions have come under more scrutiny than ever before. COP26 was a standout event for shipping, where it featured high on the agenda, and discussions resulted in strong pledges from many attendees.

This includes initiatives, such as the Clydebank Declaration, under which nations agreed to work together to support the establishment of green shipping corridors.

Now, the United Nations’ COP27 conference sees world leaders and global industries meet once again to discuss climate change. While shipping is less central on this year’s agenda than last year, at COP27 there is an array of side events focused on maritime decarbonisation and creating a safe and sustainable ocean economy, essentially working on the delivery of the pledges made and actions agreed last year. These conversations will likely centre around financing decarbonisation, the carbon market, as well as more stringent rules on emissions, such as methane slip.

Add to that the mounting pressure from customers for shipping companies to rapidly reduce their Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, and the maritime industry is left with a prime opportunity to rapidly accelerate its energy transition.

Meanwhile, progress has been made towards balancing the trio of competing priorities of sustainability, security, and finance in the maritime industry. Some major maritime players are taking steps towards ensuring the industry meets full decarbonisation by 2050 in the safest, securest, and most sustainable way through collaborative initiatives including the Global Maritime Forum’s Getting to Zero Coalition and Poseidon Principles.

These projects – in which Wärtsilä is also involved – are spurring the development of future fuels, digital tools, and abatement technologies that can support the industry’s mission to a greener future. But there is still work to be done in developing shipping’s infrastructure and energy sources. So, what more can the industry do to achieve the ultimate challenge of maritime decarbonisation, and do it at an accelerated pace?

A holistic approach to decarbonisation

It has become increasingly understood that ship owners and operators need to act even more quickly if they are to meet the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) 2030 and 2050 targets and support global climate goals. At the same time, they must do this while remaining profitable.

Without a single ‘silver bullet’ solution, pursuing a strategy of technological flexibility and working with partners that have platforms of systems that remain adaptable to new fuels and future regulations as they emerge is the only sensible course.

With the combination of deep domain expertise in power and propulsion solutions, voyage optimisation and digital technologies, as well as exhaust gas abatement and gas handling technologies, Wärtsilä is bursting with innovations and insight. All this greatly contributes towards the immense challenge and opportunity of decarbonising the shipping industry.

Alternative fuels – decarbonisation’s heavy hitters

A major part of shipping’s decarbonisation journey will be the use of zero-carbon fuels, either on their own or blended with conventional fuels or alternative power sources. Steps can be taken today that unlock a wider range of fuel options and possibilities for the future.

As future fuel pathways are so complex and fleet compositions are so different, owners, charterers, and operators each need to find a bespoke way forward. One of the main ways the market is responding to this is via its growing demand for engines that can run on multiple different fuels.

Wärtsilä’s new W25 engine is a prime example of moving towards this concept. The engine is already capable of operating on diesel, LNG, or either gas or liquid carbon-neutral biofuels, and can easily be upgraded to operate with future low or zero-carbon fuels as they become available.

Similarly, the Wärtsilä W46TS-DF, released earlier in 2022, features a modular design, which means every part of the engine can be replaced as needed. This approach also makes it more cost-effective and straightforward to upgrade to run on carbon-neutral fuels, such as green methanol in the future.

We will also see the first Wärtsilä commercial newbuilding methanol engine in service in early 2023, which follows many full-scale engine tests that assess the optimum engine parameters for running on hydrogen and ammonia.

At the same time, biofuels can be a powerful emissions reduction solution, and will play a valuable role in lowering emissions without a capital-intensive fleet renewal or retrofitting in the short to medium term, particularly if they are deployed as blends. As a demonstration of drop-in biofuel’s viability in the alternative fuels mix, the recent partnership with Holland America Line and GoodFuels saw sustainable biofuel deployed in Wärtsilä’s ZA40 engine onboard the Volendam to immediately reduce the vessel’s CO2, SOx and NOx emissions.

Tackling CO2 with exhaust gas abatement technology

Wärtsilä is also pioneering solutions that will help to directly combat the biggest pollutant of them all – CO2 – via modular exhaust gas abatement technologies, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) innovations.

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