Analysis points to biofuels to reduce seaborne trade emissions

By Erin Voegele | January 25, 2013

Independent foundation Det Norske Veritas has published a position paper that investigates methods to reduce the CO2 emissions associated with marine shipping. According to the analysis, biofuels currently offer the best option for mitigating expected emissions increases in the seaborne trade sector.

International seaborne trade is growing. While the shipping industry is currently responsible for 3 percent of global emissions, DNV projects that share could grow to 10 percent by 2050 if mitigation measures are not taken.

The position paper, titled “Pathways to Low Carbon Shipping—Abatement Potential Towards 2050,” models the most relevant alternative fuel types for ships through 2050, including liquefied natural gas (LNG), biofuels and nuclear. According to the analysis, LNG and nuclear have been assigned relative tank-to-propeller emissions reductions of 20 percent and 100 percent, compared to heavy fuel oil (HFO) or marine diesel oil (MGO). Biofuels were assigned a 50 percent reduction on a well-to-propeller basis.

To reach a goal of reducing CO2 emissions by 60 percent compared with today’s levels, there are two possible scenarios, said DNV in the analysis. One is to allow nuclear power. The other is to provide financial incentives for biofuels. “From the existing alternatives, the use of biofuels standards out as the best option, considering the overall environmental, safety and security impacts,” said DNV in a release. “Widespread use of biofuel in shipping depends on price, incentives and availability in sufficient volume. To capitalize on the potential, action must be taken by ship-owners, technology developers and regulators. This includes development of full scale on board prototyping and testing, as well as infrastructure development for bunkering.”

A full copy of the position paper can be downloaded from the DNV website.