Overall solution readiness
Across the spectrum of fuel solutions assessed, technology readiness (TRL) is overall highest, investment readiness (IRL) is overall lowest, whilst community readiness (CRL) is in the middle.
However, at the level of an individual fuel there are substantial variations.
The current status of these markets is typical for early-stage technology products. Marine solutions are being validated, prototypes and pilots are being demonstrated. Technologists are seeking investment and firms are hoping to bring on board a wider range of stakeholders.
IRL is currently low for several specific reasons.
IRL is currently low for several specific reasons.
- These fuels are currently more expensive than the fossil fuels used today. Policy measures to alter price incentives are under discussion but not yet concluded.
- The commercial proposition has not yet been formulated for critical high-volume applications. Scoping out the proposition in more detail has the potential to unlock small scale commercial trials.
- IRL is low for ammonia, hydrogen and methanol because several key production processes (such as direct air capture (DAC), Electrolysis and carbon capture and storage (CCS)) are not yet at the commercial trial stage in the shipping sector.
CRL is currently low because appropriate policies to enable uptake and reduce the attractiveness of fossil fuels are not yet in place.
From a production and resources perspective, the readiest fuels are those produced by renewable electricity (re-Electrofuels). Conversely, the readiest from a shipboard perspective are biomass-derived fuels (biofuels). This is because bio-derived diesel and methane have similar properties to existing fossil fuels so our industry experience in bunkering, storing, handling and use in existing machinery can be directly applied. However, we have no experience with fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen and so must go back to first principles, understand the risks and establish procedures and standards to mitigate both environmental and safety risks.
Resources for electrofuels
Although the TRL for renewable hydrogen is quite high at 7 there is a need to understand the implications of scaling renewable electricity in each country or region. For example; who is going to use the electricity, for what and how much additional electricity can be made available to produce hydrogen.
The TRL for renewable hydrogen is much higher than for hydrogen produced from natural gas with CCS. We have not yet seen a demonstration of CCS at scale and there are challenges to be resolved around the storage volumes and locations.
CRL is relatively low as there is a need to understand the land-use change impacts of a massive expansion of renewable energy-based plants and the environmental and social implications of carbon storage locations. There is also the perception that CCS is associated with enhanced oil recovery and fossil fuels.
The TRL and CRL for production of re-Electrofuels are broadly similar due to similarity in production processes and the use of common technology, the electrolyser. Whilst ammonia and methanol have the same readiness levels, methanol is slightly behind. Although methanol also uses electrolysis, production sources carbon dioxide from DAC, a less mature technology.
To increase the TRL of production of ammonia, hydrogen and methanol from renewable electricity we need to show the scaling potential of the two key technologies – electrolysis and DAC.
From a CRL perspective it is also necessary to demonstrate the social and economic impacts of scaled up production on communities.
Natural gas with carbon capture and storage fuels
Resources for natural gas with carbon capture fuels
The TRL of fuels produced from natural gas with CCS is lower than the TRL of renewable electricity based zero carbon fuels because we have not yet seen demonstration of CCS in large scale and there are challenges to be resolved around the storage volumes and locations.
Production of natural gas with carbon capture fuels
Although currently ammonia and hydrogen are produced by steam methane reforming (SMR) it is the addition of CCS that reduces the readiness levels. Large CCS facilities will be required with industrial scale storage at point of capture, plus transportation infrastructure to carry carbon to permanent storage locations.
IRL is low for ammonia, hydrogen and methanol – this is because is all cases using DAC, electrolysis and CCS for production is not at commercial trial stages. In order to unlock these transition pathways, the focus needs to be on scaling the technologies to unlock investment for commercial trials.
Sustainable biomass-derived fuels
Resources for biofuels
The IRL for biomass feedstocks is low, primarily due to limited evidence of the scalable potential of sustainable sources of biomass and potential supply constraints. Further evidence is needed to move from small case commercial trials to scaling up.
It is the CRL for biomass feedstocks that is the limiting factor in readiness. There is a need to understand the land-use change impacts of a massive expansion of renewable energy-based plants and the environmental and social implications of carbon storage locations. There is also the perception that CCS is associated with enhanced oil recovery and fossil fuels. Sustainability assessments and analysis would enable movement to the next level.
Production of biofuels
Production of liquid bio-methane has a TRL lower than any of the re-Electrofuels. The main reason here is not the production of a biogas through established processes but the liquefaction needs for marine applications and the scaling requirements to convert localised de-centralised production into global centralised production. As there are still methane emissions the climate benefit is reduced.
IRL for sustainable biomass-derived fuels scores very low suggesting the need to understand the scalability issues. We require evidence that we can move from level 2 (small case commercial trial) to level 3 (commercial scale-up).
The low CRL is linked with the availability of the feedstock suggesting the need to understand the socio and environmental implications of dedicated biomass for marine use. This should aim to move from level 2 (initial testing of proposed solution) to level 3 (proposed solution(s) validated).