MSC Sees Hydrogen and Biofuels in Shipping’s Future Fuel Mix

MSC predicts hydrogen and biofuel as future fuel sources
MSC Gulsun and her sisters were fitted to convert to LNG as a near-term fuel solution (file photo)

Published Oct 6, 2020 8:20 PM by The Maritime Executive

The global shipping industry is continuing to explore the news sources of fuel that will help it to reduce its environmental impact and meet the industry goals of reducing emissions. Speaking at the Maritime Transport Efficiency Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, MSC discussed its approach and outlook for the future.

MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company said it is exploring the viability of hydrogen and fuels derived from it as a possible fuel source for the future for container shipping. While the efforts continue to develop hydrogen as a fuel source. MSC reports that it is increasingly pioneering the use of biofuels within its existing fleet.

“There’s no one single solution to decarbonize shipping; we need a range of alternative fuels at scale and we need them urgently,” said Bud Darr, Executive Vice President, Maritime Policy & Government Affairs at MSC Group. “The future of shipping and decarbonization will rely on strong partnerships from both the perspective of technology collaboration and procurement.”

While actively exploring and trialing a range of alternative fuels and technologies, MSC is currently actively bunkering biofuels at scale. Fossil-sourced LNG remains a transitional option, while carbon capture and storage, if perfected for marine use, could be useful, Darr told the conference, which gathered together a variety of shipping companies, fuel providers, academics, policymakers, and representatives of the UN and Geneva government. 

Industry partnerships MSC says could help accelerate the development of clean hydrogen for the benefit of the entire container shipping industry. Despite some significant challenges to overcome mainly related to density, volume, and safe handling, MSC is in favor of further R&D efforts to produce it in a greenhouse gas neutral way and to develop it at scale, along with other fuels that may derive from it.

MSC is also pioneering the large-scale usage of biofuel blends for container ships and is already bunkering responsibly sourced, up to 30 percent biofuel lends on a routine basis in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Further, MSC’s Gülsün class of containerships was fitted at delivery in 2019-20 with the option to convert in the future to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a potential bridging fuel as part of the industry’s transition towards a zero-carbon future.

MSC believes there must be a massive injection of energy and capital into R&D efforts to bring alternative fuels and alternative propulsion technologies to the marketplace for us to deploy and decarbonize in the longer term. MSC is therefore engaging with potential vendors to investigate new solutions that would help to minimize and one day, to eventually eradicate CO2 and other GHG emissions from shipping fleets.