Sustainable Maritime Fuels

New Ricardo maritime study considers the readiness of low and zero carbon marine fuels and technology to decarbonise shipping

26 Apr 2023


International shipping is acknowledged as being a hard to decarbonise sector because of the diversity of its vessels, the energy mix, and the genuinely globally geographic scale and reach of this transportation sector. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has made the decarbonisation of international shipping its priority, and is currently working on a strengthened strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions from ships.


I International Maritime Organization (IMO)

Ricardo and DNV have just delivered a new study for the IMO which assessed the availability and readiness of: low- and zero-carbon ship technology; marine fuels that can decarbonise international shipping; and the feasibility of achieving different decarbonisation scenarios. This research will help to inform the IMO’s work revising its greenhouse gas strategy for the maritime sector – slated for publication later in 2023. It was conducted for the Future Fuels and Technology for Low- and Zero-Carbon Shipping Project (FFT Project): a partnership project between the Government of the Republic of Korea and the IMO aiming to support greenhouse emissions reduction from international shipping by promoting the uptake of future fuels and technology. 

Tim Scarbroughwho was Ricardo’s technical lead on the project, explained the key findings: “Ricardo is leading the evolution of the maritime sector towards an efficient, sustainable and low-carbon future. For the study, we evaluated demand as well as capacity developments related to low- and zero-carbon technologies, while also assessing their commercial and technological preparedness – all with the goal of helping the IMO identify trusted pathways to reduce CO2 emissions by 2050.” 

“Decarbonisation of the maritime sector will require the use of low-carbon and zero-carbon fuels (‘candidate fuels’) and technologies that are identified as reducing greenhouse gas emissions compared to fossil fuels. The candidate fuels considered in this study included advanced biofuels, synthetic electro-fuels (‘e-fuels’) made from renewable energy, ‘blue’ fuels with carbon captured and stored (CCS) during their production and the use of on-board carbon capture with a blend of fossil and biofuels.” 

“We assessed the potential availability of the candidate fuels to 2030 from existing and planned projects, and looking further ahead, based on reviews of multiple global energy system forecasting studies. The assessment indicates the potential for significant availability of candidate fuels, but that depends on demand.” 

“The ability to adopt the candidate fuels will depend on the development and adoption of technologies to produce the fuels, their use on-board vessels, and achieving vessel efficiencies. The projected technical and commercial readiness of these technologies was assessed along with the expected fuel prices and impacts on vessel costs, the necessary development of bunkering facilities for candidate fuels, and the capacity of shipyards to build or convert vessels to new technologies.” 

“In summary, as a result of our research and feasibility assessment, we had three principal findings. First, achieving a more ambitious decarbonisation pathway than the current trajectory is not expected to be limited by the commercial readiness of alternative fuels and technologies, nor infrastructure or shipyard readiness. Secondly, a clear signal of demand - ie agreeing a more ambitious IMO greenhouse gas strategy and agreeing the policies to transition to that steeper pathway, including on energy efficiency measures – is needed to enable sufficient supply of candidate fuels. Thirdly all three decarbonisation scenarios evaluated in the study were assessed to be feasible in 2040 and in 2050 if policies to deliver an increased level of ambition are implemented in the short term.”


decarbonisation scenarios with targets compared to business-as-usual GHG emissions that were considered as working options in this study

To read the full report for the IMO click here →
To read the summary report click here →

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