HullWiper | So, does hydrogen have a future in the shipping industry?

So, does hydrogen have a future in the shipping industry?

07 Sep 2021

07 Sep21 Does hydrogen have a future in the shipping industry Photo

There's no question that the shipping industry is the primary mover of global trade, with around 80 per cent of world trade being transported by sea. This commercial demand is set to increase over the coming decades, and inevitably the potential rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

The maritime industry is responsible for producing approximately one billion tons of CO2 per year and is considered one of the biggest carbon emitters, generating nearly 2% of global emissions. As temperatures continue to soar and biodiversity within our oceans continue to suffer, the shipping sector faces intense pressure to decarbonise and find “green solutions” to help ensure a sustainable and profitable future. Vessels are now expected to mitigate the industry's impact on the environment by working alongside the International Maritime Organization (IMO) strategy to reduce carbon emissions in the industry by 40% by the year 2030.

Despite the international outcry and interest in decarbonisation, there is still a heavy reliance on carbon-dense bunker fuel. For the industry to make substantial headway in achieving the IMO's target, industry leaders are adamant that the first net-zero ships need to enter the global fleet by 2030. Exploring the possibility of utilising a low-carbon fuel source such as green hydrogen will undoubtedly help meet these goals in the coming decades.

Hydrogen and the shipping industry

Hydrogen is considered the most abundant element in the universe but is in short supply on Earth. It is often made from electrolysis which is the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen by utilising electricity from renewable energy, which results in a product or fuel with zero greenhouse gas emissions. Along with its green factor, hydrogen is also non-toxic, colourless and odourless.

The maritime sector is exploring this alternative fuel source as a promising solution, albeit a costly alternative. There are a number of projects that are in the works, but the small vessel sector has proven to be the best testing ground for implementing this fuel source.

Swiss-based technology group ABB has been hard at work building hydrogen fuel cell systems, which has focused largely on passenger and cargo ships.

However, there are several obstacles that the industry will need to overcome when it comes to hydrogen, including the fact that it is highly flammable and is less energy-dense than bunker fuel. This simply means that hydrogen fuel cells will take up more space on cargo ships.

Embracing hydrogen

Despite the challenges with utilising hydrogen, it remains the most promising clean fuel option for the global shipping industry, with other alternative fuel sources such as methanol and biofuels not coming as close to emitting zero CO2. Therefore, as the maritime sector looks to the future, hydrogen will most likely be factored into the industry's long-term green decision-making processes and technological developments.

While fossil fuels continue to be a cheaper option, at least for now, the shipping industry and vessel owners still have a responsibility to protecting the environment. Until we enter a hydrogen-fuel future, there are various green technologies that can ensure a ship's carbon emissions remain low.

A green solution with HullWiper

Biofouling has become a major problem for ships. These invasive species are the accumulation of aquatic organisms such as microorganisms, plants, and small marine creatures which attach themselves to a ship's hull. Without regular and adequate hull cleaning, they have a devastating effect on the oceanic ecosystem and a vessel's operational bottom line.

Traditional hull cleaning with divers using brushes and karts still pose a threat to the marine ecosystem as most removed fouling is deposited back into the sea. So, what is the safe, green alternative?

HullWiper's eco-friendly Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) collects and removes these marine “hitchhikers” onboard a filter unit, without polluting port waters and risking the spread of cross-pollination. HullWiper's active mission is to preserve our oceans and ensure that green steps are taken when meeting the needs of the shipping industry. Their contribution to the environment is backed by their operations. Without damaging the expensive anti-fouling coatings or threatening local marine fauna and flora, all the removed fouling is deposited into dedicated containers onshore for safe removal by a locally approved environmental waste disposal company.

Saving Fuel

With around 10% of some pollutants found in the atmosphere being a direct result of the shipping industry and its use of bunker fuel, regular hull cleaning with HullWiper can help reduce a ship's impact on the environment whilst saving on fuel costs. The build-up of marine organisms on vessel hulls cause can cause vessel drag as it moves through the waters, directly impacting and increasing fuel consumption by up to 40%.

Have a look at how HullWiper's unique ROV can help you save on operating costs by utilising our free Fuel Savings Calculator. If you’re interested in saving time, costs and the marine environment, contact our team via [email protected] or visit our website for more information.