‘We need a policy landscape that encourages us to make emissions reductions right now and not to move emissions to a different part of the supply chain,’ says Shell’s Grahaeme Henderson.
Speaking at the Singapore Maritime Technologyconference on 22 April, Henderson set out Shell’s approach to decarbonisation which is focused on three key areas: future fuels; the technologies that will enable them; and the policy that will support and incentivise shipping’s progress.
Shell has previously stated its view that hydrogen is likely to be the dominant fuel for shipping in the future. Henderson acknowledged that hydrogen – and ammonia – do present safety challenges but he said that tests being carried out with DNV at the Spadeadam Facility are demonstrating that the safety risks associated with hydrogen ‘appear to be more manageable’.
The production costs of blue and green hydrogen are coming down, he said, and increasing multi-sector demand for hydrogen will also drive that reduction. However, apart from its toxicity challenges, the production process for ammonia is a mature one ‘leaving less room for cost improvement and there are few other industries to share the costs with’, Henderson noted
He also highlighted that green hydrogen is the ‘building block’ for any of the future fuels currently under discussion.
‘Liquid hydrogen requires one thermodynamic transformation: gas to liquid. All other options require additional chemical transformations to produce them, and then convert back to hydrogen before it is consumed. This is less efficient and the process requires more energy.’
While Shell will continue to make the case for hydrogen, Henderson said that shipping’s energy transition ‘is not a competition’.
‘We will need to work together, remain open to new ideas, test our views, trial new technologies, so that we can all unite around the fuels and technologies for the future, and start to really make progress,’ he said.
Henderson also reiterated Shell’s stance on LNG as a marine fuel and made reference to the two recent reports from the World Bank and Sphera which, to some degree, take opposing viewpoints on the use of the fuel.
‘Let me be clear, LNG is the lowest emission fuel available at scale in the shipping sector today – it has no near rival in this regard’, he emphasised.
Pointing out Shell has a methane emissions target of 0.2% by 2025, Henderson said that new technologies are emerging to address the challenge of methane slip.
‘To minimise cumulative emissions from the shipping sector before future fuels are available in enough quantity for the global shipping fleet, LNG is the choice today,’ said Henderson.
He also noted that a supply infrastructure is in place for LNG at over 150 ports, and LNG also has a future development pathway with the use of bio and synthetic options. Using LNG is already helping shipping to make progress on decarbonisation, he said. ‘The sector cannot afford to simply wait for alternative fuels.’
Henderson acknowledged that fuels such as ammonia, methanol and hydrogen have lower energy densities than current, oil-based fuels. However, he suggested that the wider development and deployment of energy efficient technologies can mitigate this problem.
Fuel cells will be another ‘critical enabling technology,’ said Henderson.
‘We think that the key to unlocking net-zero emission fuels is fuel cell technology. By developing low cost fuel cell technology to be cheap enough and with high enough capacity to power deep sea shipping, we will enable real change in the industry.’
He continued: ‘Our modelling shows that the fastest pathway to net-zero, with the lowest total emissions, is the accelerated adoption of LNG, combined with widespread use of Energy Efficient Technologies, while developing fuel cells ready to transition directly to zero emission fuels in the future.’
Shell is joining a consortium to trial fuel cells onboard a deep-sea vessel in order to demonstrate that the technology can be marinised. This trial will use LNG to power the fuel cell, and this can be replaced by zero emission fuels when capacity and scale is achievable.
Turning to regulation, Henderson said the progress on decarbonisation ‘will need the foundation of a global policy regime’.
‘We see an important role for regulation that encourage solutions such as LNG, biofuels and carbon offsets, which will enable emissions reductions today, in the period before zero-emissions fuels are available at scale,’ he commented.
‘We will also be advocating for a global market price on carbon emissions in the shipping sector to be established, with the proceeds used to fund research and development and pilot schemes to decarbonise the shipping sector.’