Sustainable fuels | Shippers meet in Montreal

Sustainable fuels | Shippers meet in Montreal
Sustainable fuels | Shippers meet in Montreal

(Montreal) Shippers from around the world met in Montreal on Thursday to determine which sustainable fuels their ships should use – a key question given that ships built today will still be in service in 2050.


Posted at 3:09 p.m.

Christopher Reynolds

The Canadian Press

At the annual summit of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), President Emanuele Grimaldi said different types of fuel were suitable for different ships, but governments, producers and the transport sector needed to reach a consensus on green energy.

Options range from methanol and ammonia to hydrogen and nuclear propulsion in an industry where about 58,000 cargo ships run primarily on “bunker fuel,” a heavy fuel oil with even higher sulfur levels than diesel. .

The industry group, which represents more than 80% of the global merchant fleet, advocates a tax on maritime greenhouse gas emissions to encourage the adoption of renewable fuels.

However, Mr Grimaldi also said governments must push to increase supply, given the lack of sustainable fuels, as the sector targets net zero emissions “by or around 2050” – the target set last year in a plan by the United Nations’ International Maritime Organization (IMO), which regulates global shipping.

“There is no availability for these types of fuels, not until now,” Grimaldi told reporters. We are very interested in methanol, because methanol can also be produced from waste. »

Agricultural waste, urban garbage and wood residues such as leaves and branches all represent raw material sources for so-called biomethanol – “something that is gold,” Mr. Grimaldi, citing its projected future value.

Ammonia, which does not emit carbon dioxide when burned, is also considered a potential energy source for cargo ships. But the compound is expensive, flammable and corrosive – a risk to mariners and, if leaked, to aquatic life.

“Today the engines are not available,” Mr. Grimaldi said. This difficult-to-burn fuel requires a specialized internal combustion process. The first-ever ammonia-powered ship engines are expected to be delivered later this year or in early 2025.

“For our passenger ships and our ferries, we are turning more to methanol,” said Mr. Grimaldi, who also chairs the Naples-based Grimaldi Group, a maritime conglomerate whose revenues have exceeded $7 billion per year. last year.

“We know that methanol can be very toxic,” he added. No one would be in the engine room. »

Small ships could run on batteries. As for green hydrogen – produced from renewable electricity – “it could be very explosive”.

“We also need a lot of premium fuel,” Mr. Grimaldi stressed, referring to the need to accelerate the production of this emerging fuel.

The shortage hits the world of transport

From shipping to aviation, the shortage of sustainable fuel is hitting the world of transportation, even as countries set ambitious targets to reduce emissions and curb global warming.

In Canada, marine carriers and shippers have called on the federal government to increase funding for sustainable transportation, money they hope to dedicate to green supply chains and modernizing existing infrastructure.

Tax credits, loans and grants are key to helping businesses produce less carbon dioxide and keep pace with other countries’ transportation networks, according to the National Airlines Council of Canada and the Chamber of Commerce. maritime commerce.

“The maritime sector will be one of many consumers and users of these new fuels,” said Bruce Burrows, CEO of the chamber.

“We will all line up and ask for some sort of preferential treatment,” he added. It will be a competitive world: supply will be limited and there will be many applicants. »

At the port of Montreal, members of the International Chamber of Shipping planned to hold an informal vote Thursday on renewable fuels with the greatest potential.

The president also highlighted rising protectionism and global conflicts as barriers to maritime trade that ultimately drive up costs for consumers.

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