Key findings

  • To meet the IMO greenhouse gas ambitions, new fuels, alongside energy efficiency, will play a key role.
  • DNV GL new barometers will help by showing the decarbonization status of the world fleet and the readiness of alternative fuels.
  • Bridging technologies and fuel flexibility can facilitate the transition from traditional fuels, and newbuildings should consider alternative fuel-ready solutions.
  • More robust newbuilding strategies can be achieved using a new multi-scenario approach to future-proofing. 

The report by DNV GL Maritime- Forecast to 2050- highlights, among others, that shipping will not meet IMO carbon goals under current policies.

DNV GL's CO2 Barometer shows the total emission level is still increasing, despite efficiency gains.

If the IMO targets are to be met, it is vital that uptake of low- and zero-emission technologies should begin on large ocean-going ships in the near future.

Uptake of alternative fuels and technologies is slowly starting to pick up pace, as indicated in the CO2 Barometer. But the vast majority of tonnage ordered still uses traditional fuels.

With current policy measures only, the CO2 Barometer signals that the ambitions in the IMO GHG strategy are not going to be met.

Additionally, the report reads, alternative fuel technologies can bridge the gap. Many alternative fuel technologies are available for reducing the GHG emissions of shipping.

For alternative fuels and power sources, the technical applicability and commercial viability will vary greatly for different ship types and trades, where deep-sea vessels have fewer options compared with the short-sea segment.

It is important to find technically feasible and cost-effective solutions for the deep-sea segment, accounting for more than 80% of world fleet CO2 emissions. Currently, the only technically applicable alternatives for this are liquefied natural gas (LNG) and sustainable advanced biofuels.

Widespread adoption of low-emission and carbon-neutral fuels could potentially take a long time, factoring in the time needed to properly develop low-carbon fuels, production capacity and infrastructure and to scale this.

This study therefore introduces ‘bridging technologies’ that can facilitate and ease the transition from traditional fuel, via fuels with lower-carbon footprints, to carbon-neutral fuels.

The bridging philosophy is built on three flexibility pillars:

Fuel-flexible energy converters are essential as bridging technologies. However, but fuel-flexible arrangements for onboard storage and supply systems (allowing fuel switching), as well as flexible shore-side fuel infrastructure, are also needed.

Meanwhile, the demand for seaborne trade is projected to grow by 39% until 2050. The energy use per tonne-mile will decline by 35% to 40% on average towards 2050 in all projected pathways.

This is due to energy-efficiency measures, mainly hull and machinery improvements, and speed reduction, which do not require further policies to promote uptake.

In all modeled pathways, there is a prevalent use of liquefied methane (40%–80% of the 2050 fuel mix).

Both fossil and non-fossil primary energy is used to produce the methane.

Ammonia is the most promising carbon-neutral fuel option for newbuildings.

Another alternative would be a gradual shift on existing ships relying on drop-in fuels compatible with current fuel converters (such as bio/electro-diesel replacing liquid fuels, or bio/electro-methane replacing LNG).

The preference for ammonia is due to the lower cost of the converter, storage and the fuel itself compared with H2 and liquefied biogas (LBG)/ synthetic methane.

The share of carbon-neutral fuels in world fleet energy needs to be 30%–40% in 2050, in addition to improving energy efficiency, to achieve IMO GHG ambitions.