Joint study to assess feasibility of zero-carbon fuels for ferries

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Funding has been awarded to Caledonian Maritime Assets Limited (CMAL) and Strathclyde University to explore the technical, operational and commercial viability of using zero-carbon fuels to power ferries. 

MV Catriona, one of three hybrid diesel-electric vessels in CMAL’s fleet and one of the 23 ferries included in this study (Copyright: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert)

The £30,000 grant funding comes from a successful joint bid to the Department for Transport’s clean maritime demonstration competition (CMDC), which was launched in March 2021 to accelerate maritime decarbonisation in the UK.

The six-month project - Lifecycle Energy Solutions for Clean Scotland/UK Maritime Economy - is a feasibility study that will explore the most effective solutions for reducing maritime sector carbon emissions whilst supporting sustainable economic growth and industry competitiveness.

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“There is no doubt about the strong demand for moving towards cleaner marine fuels for the protection of our planet,” said Dr Byongug Jeong, lecturer in marine engineering at Strathclyde University and principal investigator. “To determine the best solutions, all credible scenarios for the upstream and downstream pathways for these fuels will be examined, based on current and future prospected UK energy infrastructure and grids.”

CMAL said its ship designers, naval architects and marine engineers will work with marine academics and researchers at Strathclyde University to conduct a life cycle assessment on the viability of using ammonia, hydrogen, and main grid electricity for ferries.  The team will design business scenarios based on 23 ferries on 27 routes on the west coast of Scotland, including predictions of the costs and benefits of the proposed alternative fuels compared to diesel.

John Salton, fleet manager and projects director at CMAL said: “Carbon-free fuels are in the early stages of development across the UK maritime sector, but there are various views on the most effective ways for these fuels to be produced, distributed and used onboard for the clean shipping economy.  This project will explore a wide variety of scenarios based on actual ferries and routes in operation today.  We’ll look at environmental impact and maritime safety and regulation, as well as costs, vessel design, fuelling infrastructure and supply chain constraints.”

Salton added that CMAL aims to produce a roadmap that will ultimately lead to a carbon-free ferry fleet, which is in line with the company’s

decarbonisation plan and the Scottish Government’s ambition to increase low emission vessels in the ferry fleet by 30 per cent.