On World Oceans Day, an annual celebration coordinated by The Ocean Project, “people around our blue planet celebrate and honor the ocean, which connects us all.“ The Ocean Project works with over 2,000 organizations to accelerate innovation toward conserving and preserving our oceans and seas. The galvanizing theme behind this year’s event is focused on preventing plastic pollution and encouraging solutions for a healthy ocean, including sustainable maritime fuel innovations.
The connection that our everyday lives have with oceans runs deep. Covering more than 70% of our planet’s surface, their currents and temperatures regulate the world’s climate. The ecosystem that lies beneath their vast surface is basic to the survival of all life on Earth. Many of the resources we use every day, from food to fuel, are extracted from the oceans or the ocean floor. In today’s global economy, no matter where you live, most of the things you buy more than likely have traveled the high seas before they reached you. Therefore, conserving and preserving our oceans carries an importance that cannot be overstated. As a sector, industrial shipping can play a significant role in this worthy effort by applying innovations in maritime fuel and transportation.
The wait for transformative innovation to sail sustainably is closer than you may think.
Oceans Under Siege
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) stresses the fundamental role that oceans play “in shaping the climate zones we see on land. Even areas hundreds of miles away from any coastline are still largely influenced by the global ocean system.” As we celebrate World Oceans Day, we must be mindful of the substantial, and detrimental, impact that our way of living has on the world’s oceans so that we can use this information to help preserve this most crucial resource.
Many of the things we buy and use every day first journeyed considerable distances to reach us aboard freighters and cargo ships that dump tons of fossil fuels into the atmosphere and the water around them―1,000 million tonnes―to be exact. That’s how much CO2 international shipping as an industry emits each year, which is “more than the entire German economy,” according to a recent BBC article. The reality is, the bulk of the world’s industrial shipping fleet still use the most polluting type of fuel, bunker oil.
Furthermore, we cannot ignore the fact that many of the same items that traveled to you by ship ultimately end up in the ocean again. As National Geographic points out, “by 2015, there were 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans, and up to 4 billion pieces of microplastics per square kilometer deep down―most of these are microfibers coming from the clothes we wash at home.”
A few weeks ago, the BBC published an article aptly titled, “Shipping Faces Demands to Cut CO2,” asserting, “If shipping doesn’t clean up, it could contribute almost a fifth of the global total of CO2 by 2050.” The article quoted a representative from the UK Chamber of Shipping as saying, “The public expects us all to take action, they understand that international trade brings prosperity, but they rightly demand it is conducted in a sustainable and environmentally friendly way. We must listen to those demands, and the time for action is now.”
In April, the International Transport Forum (ITF), an inter-governmental organization with 59 member countries, released a report, “Pathways to Zero Carbon Shipping by 2035,” that concludes we can decarbonize maritime transport in less than two decades. In fact, the role that industrial shipping can play in the sustainability of oceans and the planet is immense. If the industry has the will, we have an increasing array of technology and tools at our disposal to ensure we navigate the seas in a sustainable way that results in a healthy future for all―without requiring trade-offs when it comes to the prosperity and growth of international commerce.
A vital component of the pathways cited to help the shipping industry achieve deep decarbonization is the use of “alternative fuels and energy,” including hydrogen. Specifically, the ITF report indicates, “Hydrogen (H2) is another potentially attractive and viable alternative fuel since it emits zero carbon dioxide (CO2), zero sulphur oxide (SOx) and only negligible amounts of nitrogen oxide (NOx). Hydrogen can be used as fuel in several different ways i.e. in fuel cells; in a dual fuel mixture with conventional diesel fuels (HFO); and lastly as a replacement for HFO for use in combustion machinery.” The report also acknowledged that the use of hydrogen in shipping “still requires research and development, particularly to make it commercially viable.”
Hydrogen Fuel and Our Oceans
Just three weeks ago, GreenBiz wrote that the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. agency in charge of shipping, “agreed to cut total greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by at least 50 percent by 2050, and to pursue efforts towards phasing them out entirely. The race is on to find technologies that can decarbonize the 50,000-plus tankers, freighters, container vessels and ferries that make up the world’s shipping fleet.”
To realize these goals, we need a smart mix of sustainable fuel sources. One of the promising technologies for the use of clean hydrogen to power industrial shipping (as the ITF report calls for) is Hydrogen 2.0. Last year, we wrote an article on how the work we are doing at Joi Scientific is meant to advance the role of water-based hydrogen production as a source of sustainable fuel for ships. This technology enables the production of hydrogen energy from water on-board and on-demand, 24/7. In the future, ships with Hydrogen 2.0 production capabilities on-board will literally be surrounded by their own fuel and could use hydrogen for heat production, electrical generation, propulsion power, and to generate electricity to supplement and clean-up diesel engines.
The Future of the Oceans Looks Brighter
This year’s World Oceans Day is focused on exploring solutions for a healthy ocean, including tackling the problem of plastic pollution. These are problems that entrepreneurs, organizations, and citizens all around the world are applying ingenuity and creativity to provide real and actionable solutions. Better yet, the technological progress seems to be matched by the will of industry and governments to apply innovation to preserve our oceans. These are great reasons to celebrate. Happy World Oceans Day!
As the Hydrogen 2.0 ecosystem gains momentum, we’ll be sharing our views and insights on the new Hydrogen 2.0 Economy. We also update our blog every week with insightful and current knowledge in this growing energy field.