energy transition cover photo

Marine and offshore playing their part in the energy transition

Mar. 26 2020 - 6 min

The marine and offshore industries are embracing their important role in the energy transition, exploring alternative fuels and emission-reduction technologies.

Climate change is the primary challenge of our era, with greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the heart of the issue.

Reducing emissions to meet IMO ambitions requires significant changes to both the use and production of energy. Together, the marine and offshore industries are moving forward with a number of initiatives designed to reduce their environmental impact and support the search for alternative fuels.

Sailing towards a low-carbon future

The maritime industry is focusing on limiting ships’ carbon intensity, aiming to meet IMO’s ambitions for emission reduction adopted by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in April 2018. To do this, maritime companies are exploring a range of alternative fuels and propulsion technologies, which are currently at various stages of development.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is the current frontrunner, yielding GHG emission reductions between 7% and 21% compared to heavy fuel oil, depending on engine type. However, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), methanol and ethanol are interesting alternatives to LNG, being widely available and easier to handle and store. Biofuels are a carbon-neutral solution that is becoming increasingly available as marine fuel; while synthetic methane/substitute natural gas and bio-methane are also attractive options, as they are compatible with current LNG propulsion technologies.

Long-term, hydrogen and ammonia technologies, while still under development, present intrinsically carbon-free solutions for internal combustion engines and fuel cells. Fuel cells show particular promise as an energy conversion technology, due to their high level of energy efficiency.

Alternative propulsion methods are also being explored, including electric battery-powered ships for short transit routes with recharging facilities, and electric-hybrid technologies for vessels with large power variations such as offshore service vessels, tugs and cruise ships. Wind-assisted propulsion is also an option to reduce both Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and current emissions.

Climate neutrality for Europe

In December 2019, the UN announced that 73 parties to its Framework Convention on Climate Change were aiming to achieve net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Climate neutrality is the new target to hit.

The offshore industry is tasked with helping tackle the impact of energy use in society by supplying safe, reliable and affordable solutions that will continue to secure the world’s energy supply. The industry has a two-pronged approach.

Firstly, it is exploring ways to assess and reduce emissions from oil and gas production, primarily through carbon capture, storage and utilization. This involves collecting emissions from industrial or chemical processes, then separating and purifying carbon dioxide for storage. Secondly, it is developing technologies to increase the production and distribution of renewable energies, helping reduce the world’s dependence on oil and gas.

To do this, the offshore world is investing in alternative energy sources, such as wave power generation, offshore wind, biofuels and low-carbon hydrogen. Offshore wind farms in particular are blossoming around Europe, with the goal of powering entire regions with renewable energy by 2030. Biofuel producing refineries are being built worldwide, and low-carbon hydrogen technologies are under development.

Securing change for the long-term

In recent years, both the marine and offshore industries have redoubled their efforts to green their activities and protect the planet. While there is no silver bullet, Bureau Veritas is committed to supporting the development of safe, reliable low- and zero-carbon technologies that will bring us ever closer to achieving carbon neutrality.