Spoilt for choice: Which fuel will win the race?

The workshop took place online on 08.07.2021 as part of the project Kompetenzzentrum GreenShipping Niedersachsne and in cooperation with the German and Dutch Shipowners’ Associations and the project “H2Watt”.

Photo from top left: Frank Nieuwenhuis (Econowind), Jorrit Harmsen (TNO), Leo van der Burg (FME), Khalid Tachi (EICB), Sören Berg (MARIKO GmbH), Ramona Zettelmaier (Bureau Veritas), Wolfgang Franzelius (HB-Hunte Engineering GmbH)

Fossil fuels are a discontinued model and alternatives based on renewable energies, on the other hand, are finding more and more applications. The use of methanol, for example, but also of wind-generated auxiliary power is currently the focus of many innovation projects in Germany and the Netherlands, which were presented and discussed at a cross-border event. Ammonia is entering the race as a new fuel option, which shows promising potential. In addition, recommendations for the faster deployment of the above-mentioned alternatives were discussed with industry experts.

The recipe for success of CO2-free fuels is research and cooperation

While the majority of the world’s fleet still runs on low-sulphur diesel fuels, LNG is gradually pushing its way further into the market. Other alternatives are also in the starting blocks to reduce CO2 emissions from shipping not only in the short but also in the long term. “The recipe for success in the development of climate-neutral propulsion concepts and the use of marketable, CO2-free fuels consists largely of targeted research activities and international cooperation,” said Ralf Nagel of the German Shipowners’ Association in his welcoming remarks. It is important to drive developments forward across borders, because “our fuel workshop, the networking here and the exchange of experiences” also contribute to the success of alternative propulsion concepts, said Nagel. More than 100 participants from the shipping, bunkering and energy sectors took part in the exchange of experiences, following the invitation of the Competence Centre GreenShipping Lower Saxony, the German Shipowners’ Association (VDR), the Koninklijke Vereniging van Nederlandse Reders (KVNR), MARIKO GmbH and the INTERREG project “H2Watt”.

The rules set the pace

Decisive for the application of alternative propulsion systems and fuels are the applicable regulations. Torsten Mundt from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure presented the current developments at the IMO with regard to the last session of the “Marine Environment Protection Committee” (MEPC 76). At the last session, the focus was on short-term measures up to the year 2023. Thus, the EEXI, a new Carbon Intensity Index (CII) and an extended SEEMP were adopted, which are to come into force from 01.01.2023. Mr. Mundt emphasised that this was a good result, but in view of the many tasks ahead it was not ambitious enough to achieve the goals set. One reason is the limitations of the meeting in online meetings and a certain backlog of submitted documents: so 78 open ones from the previous meetings were added to the more than 200 applications.

Methanol and ammonia on the rise

Methanol as a fuel is now well known in the industry and is finding its way from the desks into the real world. For example, Prof. Kapt. Michael Vahs from the Emden-Leer University of Applied Sciences reported on the current developments of the so-called “Green Water Taxi”, which is being further equipped and tested as part of the “H2Watt” project. The experimental catamaran, which was already created within the completed “MariGreen” project, was recently transferred from Emden to Norddeich on its own keel for testing purposes, in order to be able to gather on-site experience with the ship and propulsion concept here. The electric drive is to be extended by fuel cells to increase the range of the Green Water Taxi, which is currently limited due to the battery capacity.

In addition, Leo van der Burg from FME reported on the activities and progress in the project “GreenShipping Waddenzee”, which is being carried out on the Dutch side. The overall goal is to reduce the CO2 emissions of the fleet in the Dutch Waddenzee by 60% by 2030, for which eleven different projects are being implemented. A first result is the “Ecolution”, which was equipped with fuel cells based on pure hydrogen and is already operating successfully. Another focus that was presented is direct methanol fuel cells in order to be able to equip smaller ships with fuel cells as well.

The Green Maritime Methanol project in the Netherlands is looking at the use of methanol on various cargo ships and in the offshore supply sector. Another new project was presented by Sören Berg from MARIKO GmbH, in which a new harbour boat is being built for the AG Ems that will run on an electric drive and use methanol fuel cells as a range extender.

Wind propulsion systems as CO2 savers

Wind is finding its way back into maritime shipping as an auxiliary propulsion system and is effectively providing CO2 reductions here. Anna Braren from the shipping company Rörd Braren reported on the experiences made so far with the “Annika Braren”, which was recently equipped with a Flettner rotor in Leer. For example, the system is very well accepted by the crew, as almost no maintenance work is required and the system can be operated fully automatically. Fuel savings are between nine and 13 percent per year, which also reduces CO2 emissions and will lead to double savings due to the upcoming CO2 tax.

Another principle of wind auxiliary power units was presented by Frank Nieuwenhuis of Econowind. The VentiFoul system has already been retrofitted on several ships and offers shipping companies a saving of at least 10%. The components can be installed directly on deck and are retractable when not in use so that loading and unloading operations in ports are not disrupted. In the future, the aim is to achieve savings of 20%.

Ammonia as a carbon-free alternative

The extent to which ammonia can be used as an alternative fuel on ships is now being investigated in a study presented by Wolfgang Franzelius of HB Hunte Engineering. Commissioned by the Competence Centre GreenShipping Lower Saxony, the study examines which framework conditions apply and further developments must be made in order to be able to use ammonia safely on board. According to Franzelius, it is important to take a close look at all facets, from production and transport to use on board. The results of the study will be available in November.

Starting the future now

In a concluding discussion round with representatives of the German and Dutch shipping industry, the participants agreed that there is no more time to discuss, but that investments must be made now. Since green fuels are not yet available in sufficient quantities, investments must be made in “future ready” ships or existing ships must be converted. According to Mr Mundt, the challenge is that there are not yet enough answers to all the questions in order to decarbonise maritime shipping.

The presentations of the speakers are available for download HERE. www.greenshipping-niedersachsen.de


In recognition of its responsibility for the economy and the environment, the state government has launched the GreenShipping Lower Saxony Competence Centre at the Leer and Elsfleth locations, which specifically addresses and evaluates the current and important issues and develops possible solutions in the field of GreenShipping. Extensive preliminary work by the Maritime Strategy Council Weser-Ems was taken into account. The aim is to bring the available technical competences into line with the relevant problems and to find solutions at the highest technical level within the framework of projects. With the Competence Centre for GreenShipping, Lower Saxony is facing up to the concrete challenges, conditions and wishes of the maritime industry with the aim of making shipping more resource-conserving and environmentally friendly under economic conditions. In doing so, the Lower Saxony Competence Centre for GreenShipping is to seek cross-industry dialogue with those involved in environmental problems and coordinate solution options. Based on an efficient infrastructure, the competence centre can also provide a platform for application-oriented research.

The project, funded by the Lower Saxony Ministry of Economics, Labour and Transport and the Lower Saxony Ministry of Science and Culture, is being carried out by MARIKO GmbH, Maritime Cluster Norddeutschland e.V. (MCN e.V.), Emden/Leer University of Applied Sciences, Jade University of Applied Sciences and OFFIS.