Are we going to face green revolution?

2022/08/05 at 3:43 PM

The world needs to turn green – that’s for sure. Ecology is already discussed in every context of the economy, and in relation to transport – exceptionally much. How will the green revolution take place? Are we ready for it?

Today, ecology and sustainable development are on the priority list of many national and transnational initiatives. Also enterprises, under the influence of changing regulations but also social pressure, are looking for solutions that are more environmentally friendly. We asked Marta Waldmann, senior logistics development specialist at Łukasiewicz Poznań Institute of Technology, about the demand for sustainable transport technologies and how the coming few years may look like in this area.

Marta Waldmann, senior logistics development specialist at Łukasiewicz Poznań Institute of Technology

We are witnessing many changes that the transport industry is facing. What regulations and government actions will strengthen the implementation of green solutions in this sector?

Transport is responsible for 25 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. In this “piece of the emission cake”, road transport has the largest share – 71 per cent, air transport – 14.4 per cent, sea transport – 13.5 per cent. Rail and inland transport have a negligible share. The scale of emissivity of maritime shipping is also confirmed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which determines the share of shipping in the global emissions at the level of approximately 3 per cent. The organisation has therefore set ambitious targets to halve greenhouse gas emissions from shipping by 2050 (compared to 2008), through a gradual reduction in emissions – 40 per cent by 2030 and 70 per cent by 2050.

The European Union goes even a step further and extends the IMO assumptions by establishing guidelines for the so-called European Green Deal, which will ultimately lead to Europe becoming a climate-neutral continent by 2050. At the same time, the EU assumes that an intermediate step in the pursuit of the zero-emission policy is the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 (compared to 1990), which was included in the guidelines of the Fit for 55 package.

For the Green Deal to be successful, new solutions are needed. Which innovations currently dominate green transport?

The green revolution is happening before our eyes. One of the measures envisaged in the Fit for 55 package is the shift to alternative fuels and a shift away from fossil fuels, which is a particular challenge for marine fuels. This provision is important in the context of the so far promoted alternative fuel – LNG (liquefied natural gas). Currently, LNG is considered only as a transition fuel, due to the acquisition technologies and the insufficient level of CO2 emission reduction in relation to the assumptions of the EU and IMO. Moreover, the increase in the cost of this fuel in recent months makes the operation of road vehicles unprofitable, which is timidly mentioned by carriers who have invested in a modern LNG fleet. So what if not LNG? In the field of road transport, hydrogen, methane and electricity are considered alternative fuels. In the area of shipping and marine fuels, there are several opportunities – methanol, e-methanol, biofuels, hydrogen, and ammonia.

Transport emissions, source: Council of the European Union

In terms of zero emissivity, hydrogen is the best in this combination. Unfortunately, although hydrogen propulsion is created in road or rail rolling stock, and the technology of hydrogen production in the electrolysis process is known and easily available, it could also be easily used in seaports, the lack of any infrastructure for hydrogen bunkering for ships is an obstacle. So far, this precludes the development of hydrogen-powered units.

Another interesting solution is ecologically produced methanol, derived from renewable energy, e.g. from a solar farm. Compared to conventional fuels, green methanol reduces carbon dioxide emissions by up to 95 per cent, and reduces nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80 per cent and completely eliminates the emission of sulphur oxides and particulate matter. The precursor to the use of e-methanol as a marine fuel is A.P. Moller – Maersk, which operates in two ways: on the one hand, it is already placing orders for container ships powered by e-methanol and, on the other hand, it is involved in the project of building a plant producing this fuel.

What can accelerate the implementation of green change?

IMO and the European Union provide guidance on what is expected to reduce the emissions of transport. They also offer a number of programmes and competitions aimed at financing the implementation of the assumptions of the European Green Deal. Technology and access to infrastructure play an important role in the transition to zero-emission fuels or reducing the emissions of transport, both in land and sea transport.

In the regulations of the Fit for 55 package, concerning the availability of alternative fuels infrastructure, the EU assumes the need to establish electricity charging points for road vehicles every 60 kilometres, hydrogen supply points every 200 kilometres (by 2030), and methane refuelling points available on main roads. In seaports, at least 90 per cent of container and passenger ships by 2030 are to be powered by land-based energy, and all planes are to be powered by electricity at airports.

Is Poland ready for such changes? What do we need to make green transport a reality?

In the context of shipping, access to fuel supply infrastructure is extremely important. Based on two decades of work with LNG, we already know that access to infrastructure is crucial and that its construction, availability and development of appropriate procedures are very time-consuming and costly. Considering the experience with LNG, when, for example, only 20 bunkers were carried out in the Port of Gdynia in three years due to organisational and procedural problems resulting from the lack of appropriate legislative regulations, it is difficult to be optimistic and talk about the readiness of Polish ports for further alternative fuels.

We often talk about the green revolution. Will it really be a revolution or is it an evolution?

The shipping industry seems to face a dilemma, and the choice of fuel that will be the “next” fuel will be determined by the availability of the raw material, technology and the possibility of developing supporting infrastructure. Only 25 per cent of the global fleet consists of “modern eco” ships, and only one in five is equipped with exhaust gas washers – the so-called scrubbers. This means that most of the fleet is ships powered by traditional marine fuel, and their adaptation to the zero-emission requirements of IMO or the European Union requires technology evolution and significant financial resources.

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