Some clues on energy transition in marine industry

by Giosuè Vezzuto, Executive Vice President Marine RINA

The International Maritime Organization has joined in a global effort to reduce the CO2 emissions and limit the temperature rise on earth. The targets are very demanding, by 2030 a 40% reduction of CO2 emissions per transport work, this becoming 70% by 2050 and a 50% reduction of the total GHG emission, in respect to 2008. RINA – a multinational which provides a wide range of services across the Energy, Marine, Certification, Real Estate & Infrastructure, Mobility and Industry sectors – thanks to its significant engineering expertise and to a long-standing experience in the Marine sector, can support the energy transition in this industry. Shipping is facing the multi challenge of embarking on the effort to reduce CO2 emissions the soonest, and at same time prepare for a green future.

This implies that regardless of any emissions reduction due to improved efficiency of machinery and propulsion or from speed optimization, time will come that ships will have to start burning green fuels. In RINA’s opinion the best solution is to follow a continuous and uninterrupted path from today to the future, which would make the transition smooth and quick. And this calls for flexibility of technologies that can be installed on board new ships now and be capable to adopt green fuels in the future. Starting now with LNG as fuel, it is possible to achieve a notable reduction of CO2 emissions already from today, while the same engine can burn in the future any kind of green fuel, this being either in liquid (like methanol, ammonia) or gaseous state (like hydrogen, syn-methane & bio-methane). In this manner it will be possible on one hand to approach the target of 2030, and on the other to harvest the early benefits from the progressive entry of green fuels in shipping. For example, adding hydrogen as fuel to LNG can offer a reduction of CO2 emissions and an improvement of engine efficiency. As we stand today, it is still impossible to predict which will be the future fuel; there are a series of factors, many of them beyond shipping, which will determine the feasibility and cost of each option. One of the problems of using LNG as a marine fuel is methane slip – gas that can escape from the engine and add to the greenhouse effect. The advancement of technology continuously reduces this risk and there are strong grounds to believe it will be soon eliminated from all engines. As we are seeing, the challenges of the future are many, but thanks to common efforts and collaboration between companies and institutions they can be overcome.

RINA has developed ship designs with LNG as fuel that can meet and exceed the IMO targets for 2030. In regard to collaboration towards the same sustainability objectives, RINA has recently signed some Memorandum of Understanding. The one with Snam, among the world's leading energy infrastructure companies; the one with Axpo, a leading energy production and supply company; and the one with SDARI (Shanghai Merchant Ship Design & Research Institute), one of the most prolific ship design and research institutes in China. These MoUs aim to develop hydrogen technology initiatives in various industries, as well as pilot projects for clean hydrogen production. Also, together with Fincantieri, RINA supported the construction of Zeus (Zero Emission Ultimate Ship), the world's first hydrogen-powered experimental vessel, which will be delivered shortly. All those initiatives are steps RINA chose to follow, in order to pursue a clear ESG strategy aimed to be a key player in the energy transition and decarbonisation.