Oil company Shell has published a decarbonisation report that examines potential fuels for the future, with it coming down firmly in favour of hydrogen fuel cells.
With the International Maritime Organisation having set a target of halving emissions in the shipping industry by 2050, compared to 2008 levels, some companies, such as Shell, are looking at the more ambitious target of making the sector a net-zero source of emissions.
While hydrogen fuel cells have been somewhat eclipsed by full-electric and hybrid vehicles, they are now re-emerging as a potential option for applications where battery technology isn’t feasible, such as the shipping industry. Hydrogen itself is clean burning and can be created using renewable energy, but the vast majority of the world’s hydrogen is currently made from natural gas, producing carbon dioxide as a by-product. Future efforts may look at capturing this and pumping these emissions into depleted oil and gas fields.
Shell, which also makes lubricant and coolant products for electric vehicles, believes hydrogen will likely be the most cost-efficient, clean fuel for the shipping industry. In its report, the company says:
“Processes with the fewest transformations in delivering the energy to ships are likely to be the most efficient, and ultimately have the lowest cost—a key factor for the sector. Therefore, hydrogen appears likely to be competitive over the long-term cost of ownership versus other zero-emissions fuels that may be available.”
The company believes the industry cannot wait for the development of new carbon-neutral fuels, especially seeing as hydrogen is ready for deployment in combination with efficiency improvements like air lubrication and wind assist.