Electric fuel, a viable future fuel for the marine industry

Maritime trade is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Eighty to ninety percent of all international trade is carried out by maritime transport, which transports more than ten billion tons of containers, solid and liquid bulk cargoes each year.

Two to three percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are attributed to shipping, and that figure is expected to rise to seventeen percent by 2050 if nothing is done.

Similarly, the 2020 International Maritime Organization (IMO) Greenhouse Gas Study reports that in 2018 alone, global shipping sent an estimated 1.05 billion carbon dioxide into the air. . This was about 2.9% of the total amount of CO2 humans released into the atmosphere that year.

Electronic fuels to the rescue

If ships started using low-carbon alternative fuels instead of those made from petroleum, the carbon footprint of shipping could be significantly reduced.

Therefore, environmentalists have come up with e-fuels as an alternative to help reduce the carbon footprint of shippers.

As a result, by 2030, shippers hope to reduce their emissions by at least 40% below their 2008 levels, in line with international commitments set by IMO member countries in 2018. The strategy calls for a reduction in 50% of GHG emissions by 2050 and a complete end to ship emissions by the middle of this century.

E-fuels, which include e-methanol, e-methane and e-kerosene, are fuels produced from carbon-free electricity and available in gaseous or liquid form. On the other hand, conventional fuels (biofuels) are mainly derived from biomass.

E-fuels are a key part of carbon reduction strategies because they make combustion engines much less polluting. Considering the entire manufacturing process, their carbon footprint is much lower than that of petroleum-based fuels because they are climate neutral.

Electric fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions to zero and offsets the remaining emissions to achieve a net zero emissions balance.

Reality in sight

All parts of the shipping industry are doing everything they can to make the use of green fuels and the decarbonization of shipping a reality.

Maersk, a Danish shipping company and the world’s largest container shipping company and ship operator, has taken significant steps towards a green transition. They recently announced plans to use e-methanol to power their container ships and placed an order for a dozen methanol-fueled freighters, the first of which they plan to launch next year.

In July 2021, Maersk has already announced that it is building a 172 meter long supply vessel that will run on either e-methanol or low sulfur fuel oil, which is expected to start operating in Northern Europe in 2023. The shipping giant has also partnered with six energy and fuel companies to source at least 730,000 metric tons of green methanol by the end of 2025.

Meet the demand for methanol as a “promising” future fuel. Auramarine, a Finnish fuel systems supplier, has also invested in creating one of the first methanol fuel dispensing units.

Likewise, startups are developing innovative ways to provide clean energy sources to help achieve net zero ambitions. And they receive the funding needed to meet the demand for green fuels. Over the past 24 months, searches for “e-fuel” have increased by 356%.

The increase in popularity of this trend is mainly due to the increase in funding from companies in this industry. According to Pitchbook, venture capital funding for these companies is already nine times higher than in 2021 in the second quarter of 2022.

Danish startup Blue World Technologies only recently raised 37 million euros ($36.9 million) from investors including Breakthrough Energy Ventures, founded by Bill Gates, to scale up production of a new technology that could use methanol to power large ships.

Last words

Overall, the project at Kassø, commissioned by European Energy and providing e-methanol supply to Maersk’s first e-methanol container ship, catalyzes any significant scale. And at the right time, given the current environmental risk and geopolitical tensions the world is experiencing. There is no doubt that these events have fueled the green energy shift. By attracting additional funding and creating ‘critical mass’, the success of this project will reduce costs and make e-methanol a fully viable fuel for the future.