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Research centre plots shipping's decarbonisation journey

The Naval Architect January 2021 - Green Shipping supplement

 

Bo screenshotFormed last year, the  Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping is an independent organisation  launched  in  June  2020  with  the  stated  aim  of  helping  to  accelerate  the  transition,  eventually  leading  to  new  fuel  types  and  technologies.  The  non-profit research center has been founded by several leading industry players – ABS, A.P. Møller –  Mærsk,  Cargill,  MAN  Energy  Solutions,  Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, NYK Line and Siemens Energy with the help of a grant from the A.P. Møller Foundation. 

 

In November, the Center’s chief executive  officer,  Bo  Cerup-Simonsen,  presented   RINA’s annual President’s Invitation Lecture on the subject of decarbonisation,  as  an  introduction  to  the  work the company plans to undertake. He  explains:  “The  starting  point  for  the  Center  was  a  discussion  whether  it  would  be  possible  to  put  into  the  mix  an  activity that would accelerate the transition towards  decarbonisation  of  shipping...  acknowledging  that  a  lot  of  good  activities  and  collaboration   are   ongoing   with   developments on the private and public side."

 

The complexity and scale of the challenge means that no single company can achieve this  alone  and  the  Center  sees  its  role  as  facilitating collaborations, by the setting up of a centralised team that can develop a clear strategy, while connecting shipping with the onshore infrastructure of new energy types. Although  the  focus  will  be  on  technical  developments,  Cerup-Simonsen  stresses  that the regulatory, commercial and financial aspects of the industry need also be crucial in developing scalable solutions.

 

Decarbonisation pathways

 

The Center  has  started  by mapping out the different pathways and technology  options  for  decarbonisation,  both  with  regard  to  the  fuel  supply  chain  and onboard operations. Each of  these  will  need  to  be  assessed  in  what  Cerup-Simonsen  describes  as  a  “robust  manner” in order for regulators and investors to determine their viability for different ship types  and  operations. 

 

Given the growing urgency, the Center’s strategy is focused on achieving acceleration over the next decade, with three major areas for  this  work  identified.  Firstly, developing an overview of the viable technology options, with a particular (but not exclusive) focus on the “front runners” among them that merit fast tracking. 

 

Second, to begin building a consensus around the transition strategy that  starts  increasing  demand  for  these new fuel types, including regulatory  and  financial instruments which need to be made available.  It  will  also  require  establishing  a  portfolio of development and demonstration projects that support that transition strategy. 

 

Cerup-Simonsen points out: “A lot of those projects are ongoing already, so it’s not like the industry is starting from scratch. There’s a lot of work to build on here and it’s as much about strengthening and connecting activities which are already ongoing.”

 

Finally,  comes  implementation  and  diffusion;  scaling  up  investments  significantly  and  allowing  new  ships  to  be  built  with  zero  carbon  capability  while  the  existing  fleet  is  also  adapted  to  use  new  fuel  types.  “A  big part of the solution here is to think  in  terms  of  multi-fuel  capability,  because  we’re  going  to  need  massive  infrastructure  and  supply  developments and most of that is not going to be available by the end of the decade.”

 

Managing transition

 

Despite doubts about the viability of some of the proposed fuel solutions, Cerup-Simonsen is confident  that  decarbonised  shipping  is  possible by upscaling existing technologies. Rather, it’s a matter of ensuring shipowners can transition  safely and with confidence from the current  fossil  fuel-based  system to a decarbonised  one. 

 

Complementing that are regulatory, financial and commercial levers which the Center also aims to support. To  help  realise  this,  it  is  setting  up  five  to  eight  dedicated programmes  for  specific  fuel  solutions,  addressing  the  entire  supply  system  and  onboard  vessel  systems.  For each of these the cost, environmental impact, decarbonisation  potential,  safety  and  scalability will be assessed. 

 

Cerup-Simonsen  comments: “We’re already working with a lot of players and  coalitions,  because  there’s  a  lot  of  good  work going on. We have established a scalable operating  model  where  organisations  can  work with us on the not-for-profit activities without  having  to  disclose  proprietary  information.  So we’re  collaborating with organisations globally to set up the guidance and  decision  support  tools to allow the shipping community  to  understand  the  opportunities,  cost  levels  and  potentials  available to the different segments."

 

The  Center’s initial  grant of DKK  400m (US$65.1 million) is expected to provide funding for the first three to four years, with 80-100 people  based  at  its  Copenhagen headquarters who will be a mixture  of  permanent  employees  and  those  seconded from collaborating organisations. There will also  be  other  staff  based  around  the  world  with partner companies.

 

For the full article please see The Naval Architect's Green Shipping supplement.