Wednesday, August 5, 2020

New Greenhouse Gas Emissions Study Reveals Good and Bad News

Comprehensive Report Looks Back at the Past and to the Future
Shipping News Feature

WORLDWIDE – The long awaited fourth International Maritime Organization (IMO) Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Study was published this week and the outlook is not particularly what the shipping industry, and indeed the world at large, would have hoped for.

The study, coordinated by independent research and consultancy organisation C E Delft which specialises in environmental matters, backed up by ten participants from a diverse range of expert groups, shows greenhouse gas emissions from shipping have increased from 977 million tonnes in 2012 to 1,076 million tonnes in 2018 a 9.6% increase. The carbon intensity of shipping has improved by about 11% in this period, but the growth in activity was larger than the efficiency gains.

The outlook is even worse according to the study which estimates that in the coming decades emissions are projected to increase by up to 50% until 2050, relative to 2018, despite further efficiency advances, as transport demands continue to grow. The study, which follows on from the third iteration published in 2014, shows more detail than its predecessor with statistics available for both domestic and international voyages. Jasper Faber, CE Delft, project manager commented:

“The report will provide the IMO with a factual basis for the negotiations on measures to address greenhouse gas emissions from shipping. It has again improved on the methods and presentation of the previous Greenhouse Gas Studies. We are proud to have assembled a truly global consortium bringing together some of the best experts in the field.”

The ability to split international and domestic emissions is possible due to developments in the way the data has been collected and collated and demonstrates that domestic shipping emissions seem to have doubled between 2008 and 2018, from 15% to 30%, something which has the potential to be sharply reduced if new short sea vessels are built using such things as electrically driven propulsion.

One alarming fact is the 150% increase in methane emissions over the same period. Methane is currently not regulated having never been considered a serious problem, but the switching of fuels, LNG use has risen around 30% in the time frame, probably means a change in the make-up of emissions, as NOx levels fall, so methane emissions rise, although the jump seems disproportionate. Dr Bryan Comer ICCT, who headed up the review of emission factors and the revision of the Study’s methodology, said:

“Methane is not yet regulated by the IMO but it should be because it has a much stronger global warming potential than carbon dioxide. If the IMO wants to meet its climate goals, it must take swift action to prevent excess methane emissions from LNG-fuelled ships. We expect IMO to include all greenhouse gases, including methane, in the next phase of the EEDI. In addition to greenhouse gases, for the first time, an IMO GHG study has included estimates of black carbon emissions from ships, which have consequences both for climate and human health.”

While the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic will probably cause a decline in emissions in 2020, they are not expected to significantly affect the projections for the coming decades but they did attract comment from one participant, Shinichi Hanayama, ClassNK, technical director, who said:

“In this fourth edition, we applied more comprehensive quality analysis for each task, which led to better quality ever, with more experience and expertise. We are proud that we finished up all the heavy tasks on schedule under the Covid-19 situation.”

Although the rate of CO2 emissions has improved by between 21% and 32% in the period 2008 and 2018 dependant on the measure used, the improvement has slowed in the last three years of the period. Elena Hauerhof, UMAS, leader of the inventory work, commented:

“This study represents a significant step forward in estimating emissions inventories, and for the first time uses a fully IPCC aligned approach to estimate international shipping emissions. The study has also significantly advanced the accuracy of AIS based estimations for any ship, and evidences this by undertaking a detailed validation against fuel consumption and other key parameters reported in EU MRV for over 9000 ships”

The Study is well worth reading even if only for the appendix of definitions of abatement technologies which maps out the most up to date list of technological options available to maintain or improve the performance of a vessel.

No comment on the Study was forthcoming from the IMO itself with a statement that the organisation wants time for its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) to consider it.

Photo: Things are improving, but more rapid change is required.