EC: Alternative Fuels for Marine and Inland Waterways | 2016


Alternative fuels for marine transport can play a crucial role in decarbonising the shipping sector and ultimately contribute towards climate change goals. Market penetration by alternative fuels have already begun with ship builders, engine manufacturers and classification bodies by introducing greener ships running on cleaner fuels. This can be attributed in large part to the MARPOL (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) regulations in place since the 1970s and progressively more stringent emission standards subsequently introduced by national legislators.

This exploratory report gives an overview of the marine sector, including market share, emission related issues, fuel standards and present legislation. It then considers different alternative fuels, engine types and the introduction of alternative fuels. Low sulphur grade diesel fuels which are available at a higher price than traditional fuel, and possibility of using a scrubber to reduce emissions such as oxides of sulphur (SOx) on ships that run on traditional fuels are also discussed. The report then reviews biofuels such as biomethanol, dimethyl ether (DME), biodiesel, hydrogenation derived renewable diesel (HDRD) and algal biofuel. Of these, methanol has been put into commercial use, although so far derived from fossil sources, to fuel the large Stena Germanica ferry in the Baltic Sea. Among the gaseous fuels, LNG (liquefied natural gas), Bio-LNG and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) have been discussed. The report also considers electricity (battery operated), FT-diesel (Fischer-Tropsch diesel), pyrolysis oil, hydrogen in combination with fuel cells, solar power and wind energy as potential alternatives.

At the moment, LNG and methanol seem to be the most promising alternatives with good market supply infrastructure in place. The sustainability of producing the alternative fuels and safety concerns has also been reported in the respective sections and also in reviews of some LCAs (life cycle assessments). The report concludes with future recommendations to not only utilise the expertise available at JRC in developing testing standards for the new fuels, but also to assist in formulation of policies that will direct the present positive momentum in the shipping industry as it is doing for the road transport sector.