Skip to content

How do Variations in Ship Operation Impact the Techno-economic Feasibility and Environmental Performance of Fossil-free Fuels? A Life Cycle Study


Identifying an obvious non-fossil fuel solution for all ship types for meeting the greenhouse gas reduction target in shipping is challenging. This paper evaluates the technical viability, environmental impacts, and economic feasibility of different energy carriers for three case vessels of different ship types: a RoPax ferry, a tanker, and a service vessel. The energy carriers examined include battery-electric and three electro-fuels (hydrogen, methanol, and ammonia) which are used in combination with engines and fuel cells. Three methods are used: preliminary ship design feasibility, life cycle assessment, and life cycle costing. The results showed that battery-electric and compressed hydrogen options are not viable for some ships due to insufficient available onboard space for energy storage needed for the vessel's operational range. The global warming reduction potential is shown to depend on the ship type. This reduction potential of assessed options changes also with changes in the carbon intensity of the electricity mix. Life cycle costing results shows that the use of ammonia and methanol in engines has the lowest life cycle cost for all studied case vessels. However, the higher energy conversion losses of these systems make them more vulnerable to fluctuations in the price of electricity. Also, these options have higher environmental impacts on categories like human toxicity, resource use (minerals and metals), and water use. Fuel cells and batteries are not as cost-competitive for the case vessels because of their higher upfront costs and shorter lifetimes. However, these alternatives are less expensive than alternatives with internal combustion engines in the case of higher utilization rates and fuel costs.

Funding source: This research was funded by the Swedish Transport Administration through the industry program Sustainable shipping led by the Swedish Maritime Competence Centre (Lighthouse), grant number FP2_E_2020, Assessment of hydrogen, ammonia, and battery-electric propulsion for future zero‑carbon shipping. Funding from the competence center TechForH2 (led by Chalmers and funded by industry, universities and Swedish Energy Agency) and the project ‘HOPE’ (Hydrogen fuel cells solutions in shipping in relation to other low-carbon options - a Nordic perspective), TRV 2021/11568, funded also by other Nordic funders is also acknowledged.
Related subjects: Applications & Pathways
Countries: Sweden

Article metrics loading...

This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was a Success
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error