Wednesday, November 10, 2021

COP26 Attracts a Plethora of Comments from Transport and Logistics Interests

Doubts Cast by Many Over Efficacy of Current Emission Reduction Policies
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – COP26 has spawned a flurry of environmental announcements, many with logistics connections, as companies elect to use the hubbub surrounding the Glasgow sited climate conference to demonstrate their own green credentials and the efforts they are making to reduce emissions and pollution overall.

Hutchison Ports operated Port of Felixstowe has announced a major investment in new equipment to help decarbonise its operations with an order for 48 battery-powered terminal tractors and 17 zero-emission Remote controlled Electric Rubber-Tyred Gantry cranes.

The new two-wheel drive tractor units, to be supplied by Shanghai Zhenhua Heavy Industries Co Ltd (ZPMC), will be the first electric tractors at the UK’s largest container port. ZPMC are working with their partner Shacman to develop the battery-powered tractor units whilst the gantry cranes are on order from Konecranes in Finland.

Unitrove, which looks to provide clean energy solutions, used the backdrop of the conference to unveil what it claims is the world’s first liquid hydrogen bunkering facility for fuelling zero-emission ships. The company says that, having already delivered the UK’s first liquefied natural gas bunkering facility at Teesport in May 2015, the new facility is vital to fuel an international shipping industry that accounts for around one billion tonnes of global CO2emissions and contributes to around 400,000 premature deaths and 14 million cases of childhood asthma every year.

Steven Lua, CEO of Leicestershire-based Unitrove, said his ambition was to enable clean, affordable, reliable, and sustainable fuelling options for ships at every port in the world, and he believes liquid hydrogen will play a vital role, especially for larger ocean vessels. He observed:

“To achieve net zero by 2050 needs the combined will of the industry and governments. As well as building new vessels, we need to ensure the infrastructure is in place. At this moment in time, there’s no clean-fuel bunkering infrastructure, it’s practically non-existent. Without zero-emission fuelling infrastructure, the drive for zero-emission ships will falter. In terms of infrastructure, there’s nothing significant in place today, but we are here to change that.

“The average lifespan of a large ship is anywhere between 20 to 40 years, meaning any ship procured today could potentially still be operating well beyond 2050. Liquid hydrogen has long been used to safely and successfully send rockets into space. The technology is mature, but the markets for its use are not.

"We already see very early signs of light-duty vessels being battery-driven or powered by compressed gaseous hydrogen, but liquid hydrogen will allow us to serve the heavier portion of the shipping fleet where we hope to have a much larger impact. We are also exploring options including ammonia, liquid organic hydrogen carriers, and solid hydrogen in the form of sodium borohydride.

”However, we understand that priority is currently being given to the development of international standards and regulations for pure hydrogen, and this could play a significant factor in the long run. We believe that hydrogen will be recognised as a global commodity that will be traded in the same way that natural gas is today. The bunker fuel market is worth an estimated $120 billion, so there is a huge opportunity not only in environmental and social terms, but also financially.”

The Glasgow based conference produced a plethora of fringe events devoted to talking about the problems and how to best resolve them. The International Maritime Hub, hosted a showcase by the City of Glasgow College and Maritime UK and was where Unitrove set out its stall, a display set to finish 12 November at the college’s Clyde Riverside Campus.

Such events included presentations, webinars and discussions from the likes of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), which has issued a downloadable ‘Zero Emission Blueprint for Shipping’, and other industry stalwarts. From outside the transport environment there are those, such as Intelligent, the business sales specialist, which has produced an online guide for smaller firms on how to reach out for carbon neutrality which is just that, intelligent (and useful).

The European Academies’ Science Advisory Council (EASAC), a science based lobby group which aims to advise European policy makers, is formed of the national science academies of the EU Member States plus Norway, Switzerland and United Kingdom, commented technology will not mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions in the EU for which transport alone is responsible, a figure it puts at 25%.

EASAC warns the fast rising emissions from the sector will not be sufficiently negated by current European policies to limit global warming to less than 2°C. It says that, while digitalisation, improved batteries and new renewable fuels can be game changers for decarbonising transport, a major switch from road transport needs to happen, and quickly, to avoid disaster.

The EU itself of course, along with other political factions, made all the right noises. Declaring its desire to see Europe become the first climate-neutral continent in the world it has stated that 30% of its budget and NextGenerationEU (the EU €800 billion recovery plan) is devoted to the climate crisis.

Toward this end the European Commission is hosting numerous side events at its Digital Pavilion where organisations such as the Potsdam Institute and ACEA reported on progress being achieved with the decarbonisation of road freight vehicles, and PeddleSmart talked about the potential for using innovative vehicles to decarbonise the carrying of passengers and freight over the last mile.

Photo: Steven Lua, CEO of Unitrove, with his father Aik Lua, the company's Chief Technical Officer, at the launch in Glasgow of the company’s liquid hydrogen bunkering facility.