In the race for decarbonization, the shipping industry faces major challenges. Fuel is cheap, almost half the price of gasoline. And, most ships last between 20-25 years, meaning that the turnover to cleaner shipping could take far longer than road transportation, where the average car is only 12 years old.
But there is some wind in the sails of maritime decarbonization initiatives.
Maria Gallucci, a climate journalist with Canary Media, has spent the last 5 years investigating the challenges and opportunities of decreasing maritime emissions. She spoke with Climate Now about why it is so hard to decarbonize this sector, and the diversity of approaches that are being explored, with a focus on ammonia and wind-powered propulsion.
Clean Energy Reporter
Clean Energy Reporter
Maria Gallucci is a clean energy reporter with Canary Media, covering hard-to-decarbonize sectors and how to make the energy transition more affordable and equitable. Previously, she was a contributing writer to a variety of publications including Grist, IEEE Spectrum, TIME and MIT Technology Review. Maria was an Energy Journalism Fellow at the University of Texas in 2017-2018, and gave a TED talk in 2021 on the role of green ammonia in decarbonizing shipping.
Climate Now Host
Climate Now Host
Climate Now Transportation Host
Climate Now Transportation Host
Darren Hau is a Senior Charging Manager at Cruise, focused on optimizing and deploying the infrastructure required to electrify autonomous vehicle fleets. He previously worked at Tesla, where he helped design the V3 Supercharger, and co-founded Dragonfly Systems, a solar power electronics company that was acquired by SunPower. He is the inventor of several U.S. patents and a Forbes 30 Under 30 recipient. Darren holds a BS in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University.
Maria Gallucci related articles:
- Canary Media – Amazon invests in ammonia fuel tech
- Canary Media – Wind-powered cargo
- Canary Media – Move over, electric cars: E-boats are coming
- IEEE Spectrum – Why the shipping industry is betting big on ammonia
[00:00:00] James Lawler: You’re listening to Climate Now. I’m James Lawler, and today’s episode is part of our series on decarbonizing maritime transport. I’m joined by our transportation series guest host Darren Hau, who is a former applications engineer at Tesla and currently a charging manager at Cruise.
[00:00:23] Darren Hau: Thanks, James. We’ve talked in previous episodes about decarbonizing the trucking industry, but hauling goods by sea contributes nearly 3% of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions, a number that’s projected to soar in the coming decades if ships keep burning fossil fuels. Cargo ships are also significant sources of smog-forming nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, which threatens the health of waterfront communities.
[00:00:45] James Lawler: In 2018, delegates at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to reduce emissions to 50% of their 2008 levels by 2050. Why not zero? Why is shipping so hard to decarbonize?
[00:00:58] Darren Hau: Our guest today, Maria Gallucci, is a clean energy reporter at Canary Media, and she has been writing about decarbonizing marine transport for several years now. She gave a TED Talk about it in 2021 called The Carbonless Fuel That Could Change How We Ship Goods.
[00:01:13] Maria Gallucci: “If you know anything about ammonia, it’s probably that it’s stinky, it’s toxic, it’s potentially explosive. So that’s a great place to start, right?”
[00:01:21] James Lawler: With that, let’s dive in. Maria, it’s great to have you on the podcast today, thanks for joining us.
[00:01:26] Maria Gallucci: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:27] James Lawler: Tell us about your background. How did you get into reporting on maritime transport to begin with?
[00:01:35] Maria Gallucci: I’ve been writing about clean energy and climate change more generally for the last decade. A few years ago, or maybe even five years now, I started reading about these old-fashioned sailing ships that were making a comeback, and people were using them to ship goods across the Atlantic.
[00:01:53] Maria Gallucci: I found it very exciting and inspiring, and that encouraged me to look deeper at the shipping industry as a whole, and sort of beyond these individual sailing trips, some of the bigger technology challenges and solutions that are being developed.
[00:02:11] James Lawler: Let’s take a step back. Why is shipping so hard to decarbonize? Let’s start there.
[00:02:16] Maria Gallucci: There is a few reasons. A lot of it has to do with the size of these ships and how far they travel. Particularly the large container ships or bulk carriers have a massive fuel consumption. One of the largest container ships can carry about 4.5 million gallons of fuel oil in its tanks.
[00:02:38] Maria Gallucci: My back-of-the envelope-calculation says that’s about 180,000 Ford F-150 trucks. They need a lot of fuel, and also these large cargo ships can sail for days or even weeks between refueling, so they need to carry all of that fuel with them on board. There’s a lot of complications or challenges around storing the fuel.
[00:02:59] Maria Gallucci: When you get into the alternatives, diesel and petroleum-based fuels are a lot more energy dense. You get more bang for your buck essentially when you burn them in an engine. When you move into batteries or hydrogen, ammonia, whatever it is, you need more of the fuel for the same amount of power delivered.
[00:03:19] Maria Gallucci: Another challenge is that it’s not really a one-size-fits-all solution. With ships, there are a lot of different sizes and a lot of different functions. There are container ships that cross the oceans, there are passenger ferries, and there are smaller service vessels that service offshore wind farms or oil and gas rigs. They all have different uses and different needs, and that makes it a little bit more challenging to make one blanket technology transformation for the whole industry.
[00:03:47] Maria Gallucci: The final piece is that cargo shipping is an international industry. When a vessel sails, it could enter into multiple countries on that voyage, and that means that the international industry has to come to agreement on the same sets of rules and regulations. As we know from international climate talks in general, it’s a very slow and messy process to get the whole world to agree on a set of rules, so that’s another complication for decarbonizing shipping.
[00:04:15] Darren Hau: I wanted to double click on how big this problem potentially is. What I’ve read from some of your articles is that maritime transport contributes about 3% to annual emissions. I have also heard that the fuel oil that we use in these ships are literally the bottom of the barrel in terms of the quality of fuel we get. Is that correct? Can you share more about what we’re dealing with here?
[00:04:39] Maria Gallucci: For a very long time, cargo ships used heavy fuel oil, which is the sludgey remains of the petroleum refinery process. In 2020, the International Maritime Organization, which regulates industry, passed a rule that limits the amount of sulfur content that ships can use in their fuel. Since that regulation, a lot of ships have moved away from using the dirtiest of the dirty diesel fuels, but a lot of ships still use it and now have scrubbers installed that essentially remove a lot of the pollution that comes out.
[00:05:14] Maria Gallucci: The problem with scrubbers is that a lot of those contaminants are washed back into the water, so you’re moving the pollution from the air to the water in a lot of cases. But for shipping, using the dregs of the refining process has enabled it to be so cheap as well, because this is the leftover fuel, that is discarded, and it has enabled shipping to grow without having a massive fuel cost.
[00:05:41] Maria Gallucci: That speaks to another challenge with decarbonizing shipping: everything costs more than the dirtiest fuel.
[00:05:47] James Lawler: Right, and to riff on that line of questioning that Darren raised, Maria, can you describe the regulatory infrastructure that exists? What is the framework that regulates these standards when it comes to fuels and other considerations?
[00:06:04] Maria Gallucci: For international shipping it’s really the International Maritime Organization, which is an agency of the United Nations. There’s about 200 member organizations, but the shipping industry has a large lobbying presence there as well, and environmental groups to some extent are able to participate. They set the standards for the types of fuels that can be used, the safety and crew requirements beyond the environmental aspects. But really for international shipping, it’s the IMO.
[00:06:36] Maria Gallucci: Regionally, the European Union is setting a lot of its own regulations, and North America also has separate standards for ships that are entering U.S. and Canadian ports, particularly around air quality. Under the, IMO framework, different regions can establish what are called Emission Control Areas ECAs that allow regions to have more control over the pollution or the types of fuel being used in their ports, but there’s still this collective agreement when that’s done.
[00:07:10] James Lawler: A related question is how sharp are the teeth of these organizations or regulatory bodies? If they pass a regulation about the sulfur content of shipping fuels, how likely is it that the regulation actually gets implemented?
[00:07:25] Maria Gallucci: That’s a good question. There is a lot of concern about companies’ shipping operators not complying. It’s tough to say, I know there are efforts to enforce the regulations, but when it’s an international regulation, who’s in charge of enforcing it?
[00:07:45] Maria Gallucci: The IMO doesn’t have its own enforcement agents. It’s up to the member countries to do that, so they’re regulating themselves in a way, and that is obviously a big concern. When it comes to decarbonization right now, the goals or targets that the IMO has set around reducing emissions are essentially toothless. They’re working to put those teeth into it.
[00:08:10] James Lawler: What are those goals?
[00:08:12] Maria Gallucci: The IMO has set a target to reduce the industry’s overall carbon dioxide emissions by 50% by 2050 compared to 2008 levels, and to be fully decarbonized by the end of the century.
[00:08:25] Darren Hau: I’ve got a couple of questions on the technological front. As we move away from the heavy fuel oil that ships typically use, what are the alternatives to the fuel that we use today?
[00:08:39] Maria Gallucci: Right now, a few options being pursued in the short-term and more being looked at in the long-term, there’s a big conversation right now in the shipping industry about the role that liquified natural gas should play. Ships that use [natural gas] can comply with these new low sulfur regulations, and it does have a lower carbon footprint than heavy fuel oil. But of course, it is still a fossil fuel, it still results in greenhouse gas emissions, particularly methane, so there’s a big conversation happening there, and there’s also a lot of investment being made in those types of ships. For longer-term solutions, the industry is increasingly looking at ammonia made from renewable electricity, called green ammonia, as well as hydrogen, which is a chemical cousin of ammonia, as being the future fuels, particularly for these large ocean-going vessels. Smaller vessels or medium-size battery power and hydrogen fuel cells are being piloted and explored as potential solutions.
[00:09:42] Darren Hau: I’ve also heard some talk about methanol and biofuels. Are those more like fringe technologies that people are considering?
[00:09:48] Maria Gallucci: That’s a great point. Maersk, the biggest container shipping company in the world, is looking at methanol. They’re investing pretty heavily in companies that will make methanol and investing in developing ships that can burn it in their engines. Methanol is seen as one of these more near-term solutions as well, because it’s not completely carbon free, though it can be produced with renewables. There are a lot of questions about how to produce it, how quickly it can be produced, how to source it, how to make sure it’s available, and where ships need it. For all the technologies, those are questions that are being worked out right now.
[00:10:27] Darren Hau: Not to ask you to predict the future, but it sounds like from what you’re saying, we have a couple of near-term option, but you think it’s likely that a longer-term solution might involve something like ammonia.
[00:10:37] Maria Gallucci: Yeah, what I’m hearing and reading from a lot of the shipping industry experts and analysts is that ammonia seems to make a lot of sense because as a fuel it’s carbon free, so it doesn’t create carbon dioxide emissions. And also, it has certain chemical characteristics that make it more favorable than even, say, hydrogen. Mainly, it’s more energy dense, and it doesn’t need to be stored in these high-pressure tanks and refrigerated in the way that hydrogen does, so it’s relatively easier to store it on board than some of these other technologies.
[00:11:13] Darren Hau: You’re starting to get into exactly what we wanted to talk about, which is ammonia versus some of these other technologies. You highlighted [ammonia] is more energy dense than hydrogen, though still not as good as today’s fuel. Could you take a step back and help us understand, what are the pros and cons of ammonia compared to other technologies?
[00:11:31] Maria Gallucci: I would say the pros are no carbon emissions and more energy density than lithium-ion batteries or hydrogen. Ammonia today is made to produce chemicals and fertilizer, so there’s already a pretty robust infrastructure for producing it, although most all of it is made using fossil fuels. If you were to use renewable electricity and other processes to make green ammonia, then you could potentially have a carbon free fuel source. The negative aspects are exactly that: you have to make it green, it can’t be produced using fossil fuels. Otherwise, you’re missing the point.
[00:12:12] Maria Gallucci: It’s also more expensive, and there are other modifications, engineering considerations that need to be considered. Nitrogen dioxide and NOx are byproducts, so that contributes to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. The extent to which is still something that manufacturers and engineers are figuring out. It’s not clear how big of a problem that will be, but there are also solutions being developed, potentially kind of devices that could remove those emissions. Or if you were to use ammonia in a fuel cell. Fuel cells produce electricity through a chemical reaction rather than burning the fuel. So you wouldn’t have those emissions and their challenges. The fuel cell technology itself is a challenge because ammonia operates at higher temperatures than sort of the mainstream fuel cell technology. So solid oxide fuel cells are another type of technology that might be more compatible with ammonia when it comes to cargo ships.
Certainly, a big one is that ammonia is very toxic. From what I understand, the industry experts and the safety experts say there are challenges with using ammonia. It’s not insurmountable, but it is an issue that needs to be figured out and addressed and regulated just like any other fuel.
[00:12:40] Darren Hau: We’ve had some conversations with folks on the trucking industry about hydrogen for vehicle drive trains. One of the concerns they brought up was anything that involves hydrogen typically has a lot of conversion losses, whether it’s through compression or liquefaction, or even chemical reactions to form something like ammonia. Do you see that being a potential blocker, or do you think this is something that is not insurmountable?
[00:13:05] Maria Gallucci: I think it would be something not insurmountable, but that is another challenge, especially when you’re trying to replace diesel fuel, because the more energy that you lose, the more you have to replace it, the more you have to store on board. I think these are all questions that are being sorted out.
[00:13:24] Maria Gallucci: That’s why it’s not really a near-term solution, it’s not considered like that. It’s more potentially within decades we could have ammonia powered cargo ships. Certainly, the first ones could be sailing potentially even in a few years, but in terms of converting the fleet of ships, that’ll be a much longer process.
[00:13:43] James Lawler: Maria, I wonder if you could take us through what steps would have to be achieved in order to convert the shipping industry to one that is powered by ammonia?
[00:13:54] Maria Gallucci: You’d start with supply, making sure that you have enough green ammonia, ammonia produced with renewables, to supply these vessels. Today, they use 300 million metric tons of fuel oil, and you would need the equivalent, if not more, of ammonia.
[00:14:14] Maria Gallucci: Then you would need the infrastructure, so making sure that when a ship sails to a port, it can fill its tank. You need the pipelines, storage facilities, all those components, and you also need to convert the engines or, build vessels with ammonia-burning fuel cells, ammonia-burning engines, and revamp them, in a way. It wouldn’t necessarily be a dramatic transformation, but you would certainly design the ship differently if you were using a different fuel. One thing that industry talks a lot about is this need for a price on carbon, or some sort of regulation with teeth to compel the industry to start making these investments and make the shift. I think that’s the big aspect for getting this all moving.
[00:15:03] James Lawler: Do you have any sense of cost for a typical cargo ship to undergo a retrofit?
[00:15:09] Maria Gallucci: I was looking around, and I’m not totally sure what that would be. In terms of the fuel itself, CF Industries, which is a major ammonia producer based in Illinois, estimates the cost of making green ammonia would be about $500 per metric ton, which is about three times the cost of producing conventional ammonia today using fossil fuels.
[00:15:33] Darren Hau: I had a question on costs. How much of an impact does that actually have on the business? I’ve read some articles that say if shippers doubled their shipping costs it might change the price of like a TV by a few cents. This depends on what you’re shipping, right? The impact to ship a bunch of iPhones is much less than the impact to ship bulky furniture, but can you give us a sense of how big of a problem this really is?
[00:15:59] Maria Gallucci: Yeah, that’s a great point. At least when it comes to what we as consumers will feel, it’s a matter of cents. The industry does have a large capacity to absorb the shipping fuel costs. Even with electricity, the cost isn’t just the dollars and cents of the fuel, right? We are, in a way, subsidizing dirty, polluting shipping by using the cheapest fuel, and this is a way of bringing those external costs internal by paying more to use cleaner fuel, but avoiding these other byproducts that are costly in different ways.
[00:16:39] Darren Hau: I’d love to transition towards talking about the challenges that we’ve already hit on. Let’s go one-by-one and try to figure out how we’d knock these out of the party. The first one you mentioned before was fuel distribution infrastructure, or I think what it’s called in industry is bunkering infrastructure. Can you tell us a little bit more about the challenges there, and who are the likely players who are going to tackle that?
[00:17:00] Maria Gallucci: The ship bunkering, that’s the term that’s used to describe filling up a vessel’s tanks. Sometimes that’s done directly, land to ship, other times there are vessels that do vessel to vessel fuel transfer. None of that exists for ammonia right now, at least in the maritime context, so all of that would need to be built. As I mentioned before, a big challenge with decarbonizing shipping is that it’s so international, so you can’t just do it in a couple of ports. You have to do it potentially everywhere, or at least for these giant ocean-crossing containerships, the ports where they’re most frequently visiting.
[00:17:41] Darren Hau: Okay, next challenge here, we’re kind of going rapid fire. What is the progress on creating green ammonia today?
[00:17:49] Maria Gallucci: There are a handful of demonstration projects. England and Japan are making tens of kilograms of green ammonia per day, so relatively tiny amounts. Yara is in the process of converting one of its existing facilities in Norway to make green ammonia, and CF Industries is also working to convert a facility in Louisiana to make green ammonia. There are other projects in Australia, Chile, and New Zealand that are working to produce green ammonia. A lot of it is in the works. We’re certainly not seeing large volumes of green ammonia being produced today, but there is movement toward doing so.
[00:18:29] Darren Hau: My next question is around the toxicity of ammonia, what has to happen to make sure that ships can operate given the toxicity of this? Are we concerned about this in ports, in the open waters? You know, what, what has to happen to deal with this challenge?
[00:18:46] Maria Gallucci: Ammonia is toxic, as you said, and that is a big challenge. I think that the shipping industry, from what I understand, takes these challenges very seriously because one small mishap, and they describe it as losing their license to operate.
[00:19:01] Maria Gallucci: Nobody is going to want to use this fuel, use that company, and certainly they want to avoid injury and loss of life, so with the toxicity on ships, MAN Energy Solutions, which is one of the biggest engine manufacturers in the world, is developing ammonia engines. They’re looking at putting in double-walled fuel pipes into the system, so if there was a leak or rupture of any kind, it would be contained in between those two pipes. Also, building mechanical ventilation systems that would eliminate leaking ammonia, and also alert the ship’s crew that there’s a problem. The safety regulations, because it’s so new, they’re still being developed, but I think they’re all being developed in tandem.
[00:19:48] Maria Gallucci: Once there’s a piece of technologies developed, it needs to be certified and classified. Then there are all sorts of regulations on how to use it, how to handle it, so it’s a very slow and deliberate process in that way.
[00:20:00] James Lawler: I’m curious about that. We saw that Finland’s Wärtsilä plans to start testing ammonium marine combustion in a marine combustion engine in Norway by late March. You have MAN Energy in partnership with Korean ship builder, Samsung Heavy Industries, are going to be developing the first ammonia fuel tanker by 2024. Surely, this is a extremely expensive undertaking. To create these new engines, they must really believe there’s going to be a significant market for it in the future. Is that right?
[00:20:31] Maria Gallucci: Yeah, that’s my understanding of it because it is years’ worth of efforts, and Wärtsilä and MAN, they develop engines for all different types of fuels. They’re always trying to stay ahead of the curve in that way, but I think they are looking at ammonia pretty seriously. Whether or not that means ammonia actually kind of catches on the way people think it will,I’m not sure, but I do think that there is a real concerted effort by the engineers and the shipbuilders and everybody in this bigger supply chain.
[00:21:01] James Lawler: Is your understanding, then, that they believe this will happen primarily because major retailers will demand cleaner shipping because consumers are ultimately demanding it, or do they think this is going to come about because of regulation, or just, they’re not sure, but they’re fairly sure it’s going to happen one way or the other?
[00:21:19] James Lawler: Yeah, I would say regulation is probably the biggest driver. At least from what I can tell, they see the writing on the wall, not just within the shipping industry, but globally year after year, we get these reports that tell us we desperately drastically need to reduce our emissions and we’re not doing enough , we’re not moving fast enough. In response, countries are for the most part trying to take steps toward addressing that. Shipping industry, having sort of lagged behind the rest of the world for a very long time, is now getting on board. Regulations are kind of moving the industry in that way.
[00:21:55] James Lawler: There is the consumer pressure and the retail pressure that’s also adding to this as well, and for the Amazons and the IKEAs, the large retail importers, it is becoming more of a liability, not just in shipping, but also trucking delivery vans. People are seeing, especially with the pandemic increasing our e-commerce activity and increasing shipping activity, we’re a lot more aware of the environmental impact of all of this global trade. In response, people are starting to demand more of a response from the industry.
[00:22:28] James Lawler: Before we get to our last question, I wondered if you could list any new companies or startups in this space, just in the decarbonizing shipping space in general that you’ve been tracking. We’ve talked about a number of big incumbents, these engine builders and ship builders that have huge amounts of resources and are getting ahead of the curve, but are there any younger companies that are taking advantage of maybe unexpected places for innovation in shipping?
[00:22:58] Maria Gallucci: There are a ton of startups and unfortunately, I can’t think of them all off the top of my head. One company that I recently wrote about is based in Brooklyn. It’s called Amogy, and they’re developing a system that would take ammonia and convert it back into hydrogen on the vessel so that the hydrogen could be run through a fuel cell.
[00:23:19] Maria Gallucci: Amogy is one, but there’s a lot in the logistics space using software and communications tools to track and improve the efficiency of how ships operate. For any random niche function of the shipping industry, there’s somebody kind of looking at a way to try and improve it.
[00:23:36] James Lawler: What are some places where data and analytics could drive major reductions in emissions or improvements?
[00:23:43] Maria Gallucci: One aspect is the ship operation, so using tools to assess the weather, the route, how is the ship going to be able to sail from point A to point B most efficiently, avoiding storms, avoiding whatever obstacles there might be, and also operating at an ideal speed. When ships slow down a little bit, they actually become significantly more fuel efficient in the long run because of the mechanics at the engine. Data analytics can also tell ships what an ideal speed would be in that way and also predict when they’re going to arrive at the port. If they’re going to speed up really fast to get to a crowded port and then idle out off the coast for days, it would be better to move slowly and get there at an appropriate time. Those are the types of things that software and communications tools can help ship operators learn.
[00:24:44] James Lawler: Really interesting, thank you. You’ve looked at wind powered propulsion in your work and your articles. How many cargo vessels actually run on wind propulsion today? What do some of the modern concepts with when propelled cargo shipping look like?
[00:25:02] Maria Gallucci: There are about 20 vessels today that use some type of wind assisted propulsion device.
[00:25:08] Maria Gallucci: That’s a tiny drop in the bucket compared to the tens of thousands of cargo ships, but it’s an exciting number because it was zero not too long ago. Twenty vessels today and the International Windship Association, which tracks all this activity, thinks that there will be 40 vessels by the end of this year.
[00:25:28] James Lawler: Wow!
[00:25:28] Maria Gallucci: Yeah, a doubling of it. So, a lot of those projects or systems are being installed right now or will be by the end of the year.
[00:25:37] James Lawler: Are you talking about a sail, like the old fashioned, the original jet, or is it more sophisticated than that? It sounds more sophisticated than that.
[00:25:46] Maria Gallucci: It’s more sophisticated, but the same principles, using the wind to propel the ship. There are a few different kinds. There are rotor sails, which are also called flattener rotors. These are spinning cylinders that essentially use the changes in air pressure to propel the vessel. There are sails that are made from canvas, or from different synthetic materials, or even fiberglass that can automatically unfurl and fold back in and adjust themselves as needed.
[00:26:18] Maria Gallucci: Another technology is these giant towing kites, huge parachutes that can also pull the vessel, and they too have the sort of automatic component of automatically unfurling and retracting.
[00:26:29] James Lawler: Is the concept then that these systems could be easily added onto existing cargo vessels to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption?
[00:26:38] Maria Gallucci: That’s exactly right. All these systems are being retrofitted onto existing vessels, and the estimates that I’ve seen say these systems can reduce anywhere from 5 to 20% of a ship’s total fuel use and associated emissions. It’s not fully reducing emissions and fuel, but it is a shaving off a significant share.
[00:27:01] Darren Hau: It’s so cool, and I know you have an article talking about you taking a trip on a container ship with one of these rotor sail. I feel like you should describe it. It’s like this giant pole in the middle of a ship. It looks very counterintuitive, right?
[00:27:14] Maria Gallucci: Right, and when I wrote about that, I described the rotor sails as a hyperactive barber’s pole because they’re just going around so fast, and it’s really cool to see. When the ship sails out, they push a button and there is a little motor that will start the spinning, and then once they get out to sea the wind takes it into overdrive.
[00:27:33] Darren Hau: I want to ask a couple of other questions on other technologies, if you don’t mind. Some folks say, hey, if we just re-imagined the paradigm of how we do shipping and where we refuel, and where are those ports are, we can actually do island-hopping with battery electric ships. Obviously there’s a challenge with just energy density of batteries, but what’s your take on that? What would be the challenges you think an effort like that would have to overcome?
[00:28:00] Maria Gallucci: Yeah, as you mentioned, the energy density is a big challenge, specifically for giant cargo ships.
[00:28:06] Maria Gallucci: I think some studies have looked at it and said that if you were going to cross the ocean using only batteries, you would need so many batteries that you wouldn’t actually have space for the cargo, defeating the purpose of that voyage. In terms of island hopping, I think that’s a really interesting idea.
[00:28:23] Maria Gallucci: It’s still pretty, as far as I understand, conceptual and new. It’s all discussed in the context of hydrogen and ammonia as well. If you could produce the hydrogen at sea from, say, an offshore wind turbine, the ships could fuel up there instead of having to go into the port, and that would shorten the voyage.
[00:28:41] Darren Hau: On the carbon capture front, just because James and I have spoken with Remora, which is doing carbon capture for heavy duty trucking, it seems like a compelling idea. The obvious question is, why can’t you do that for ships? I believe there are some early startups exploring that. What do you see as the challenges for doing carbon capture on ships?
[00:29:03] Maria Gallucci: Yeah, that’s actually an aspect I need to read more about. In general, when you’re adding a technology to a ship, the concern is weight and space requirement.
[00:29:14] Maria Gallucci: If you’re adding additional technology to capture carbon, it takes away from the cargo and then concerns potentially, as there are concerns with scrubbers, what do you do with the wash water, or the by-product? Where does it go? Do you keep it on board? Do you dump it overboard?
[00:29:33] Darren Hau: We haven’t figured this out with scrubbers yet, how do we figure this out with the CO2? It sounds like that means once you’ve finished talking with these folks, we have to invite you back on to give us an update.
[00:29:43] Maria Gallucci: Yeah, it does make me realize I have a lot more research to keep doing.
[00:29:48] Darren Hau: As do we all.
[00:29:50] James Lawler: Well, Maria, thank you so much for your time. This has been a really interesting conversation.
[00:29:54] Darren Hau: Thanks for joining us, Maria.
[00:29:55] Maria Gallucci: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:30:01] James Lawler: That was Maria Gallucci from Canary Media speaking with us about de-carbonizing the shipping industry. To get the links to Maria’s work, listen to other interviews from Climate Now, watch our videos, or sign up for our newsletter, visit climatenow.com. If you’d like to get in touch, you can email us at email@example.com, or tweet us @weareclimatenow.
[00:30:21] James Lawler: We hope you join us for our next conversation and stay tuned for more episodes. Climate Now is made possible in part by our science partners like the Livermore Lab Foundation. The Livermore Lab Foundation supports climate research and carbon cleanup initiatives at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, which is a Department of Energy Applied Science and Research Facility.
[00:30:39] James Lawler: More information on the foundation’s climate work can be found at livermorelabfoundation.org.