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IRENA report identifies clean energy solutions for shipping industry

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A new report from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) has identified a number of clean energy options that the global shipping industry must look to adopt if it is to reduce its carbon emissions.

The shipping sector is currently responsible for 3% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and 9% of transport-related emissions, and this figure will continue to rise as trade volumes increase. If no action is taken, emissions from the maritime industry could grow between 50% and 250% by 2050, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has warned.

Heavy fuel oil currently represents 82% of the sector’s energy needs – decarbonising global shipping through the use of clean fuels, such as biofuels, will play a key role in reaching climate goals.

The new report from IRENA, titled ‘Navigating a way to a renewable future’, explores the impact of maritime shipping on carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, the structure of shipping and key areas that need to be addressed to reduce the carbon footprint of the sector.

“Decarbonising transport is critical to a sustainable future,” said Francesco La Camera, director-general of IRENA. “Shipping is a major contributor to transport emissions and it is encouraging that the industry has shown a clear willingness to engage the energy sector to exchange ideas on low-carbon pathways.

“As the cost of renewables falls, the decarbonisation options available become increasingly competitive. By 2030 alternative low-carbon fuels could reach parity with heavy fuel oil, so it is vitally important that the ship industry prepares itself for a low-carbon future."

In order to cut carbon emission levels by 50% from 2008 levels by 2050, the sector must adopt a combination of clean energy options and alternative renewable-based fuels, the report finds. This includes a shift from fossil fuels to alternative options, including advanced biofuels and hydrogen-based fuels, upgrading onshore infrastructure and practices during docking, electrification and reducing fuel demand by improving operational performance.

Biofuels such as bio-LNG have considerable potential as a transitional fuel, which could gradually replace fossil fuels. Other synthetic fuels being considered as replacements include methanol, hydrogen and ammonia – all of which are able to decrease emissions in the shipping industry, if they are produced from sustainable feedstocks using renewable electricity.

The report can be accessed here.