UN Climate Change Conference 2021: Plotting a course towards Net Zero

 In Articles

Two viewpoints from Solis Marine experts

Chris Gascoigne, Head of Marine Engineering Services

The eyes of the world are on Glasgow as various leaders and more than 20,000 scientists, industrialists, journalists, environmentalists and other attendees are expected to attend COP26.

The publicised goals of this 26th Conference of the Parties are to secure net zero carbon emissions by 2050, adaptation to protect communities and natural habitats, climate finance and investment and enhanced collaboration. Of the backgrounds to these goals, the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the need to accelerate towards the targets of the 2015 Paris Agreement are probably the most familiar to the public.

Moves towards limiting the environmental impact and, more recently, the decarbonisation of shipping have been gaining ground. There is a plethora of technologies and fuels in the mix for the passage towards decarbonisation and the so-called ‘4th Propulsion Revolution’.

Fuel options on this pathway currently include LNG, ammonia, methanol and hydrogen. Exactly which fuel, or fuels, will become most prevalent is unclear and open to debate.

Whilst the nature of fuels may change, I believe that internal combustion engines will remain high on the list of consumers, albeit with advances to a technology that has already had over a century to be honed. Of course, in tandem with the evolution of existing technologies, other innovative solutions will be developed and may offer viable alternatives or complimentary solutions.

Whilst the industry has the technology, or the ability to develop further technology, to achieve decarbonisation, my question would be does it have the motivation, ambition and synergy to do so in a timely enough manner? Will there be commercial advantages in stakeholders making trailblazing decisions now?

There are always early adopters of technology and, as far as the path towards decarbonisation is concerned, many ‘firsts’ have been prominent in the recent marine press. It is also clear that whilst many owners are keen to work towards decarbonisation now, others may not have the finances or ability to do so alone. Will there be opportunities for new multi-stakeholder partnerships to future proof the aims of COP26?

In terms of environmental impact, I am fortunate enough to have worked with and for organisations who wanted to invest, ‘do the right thing’, or plan for future legislation and obsolescence very early in ship design. Some saw these matters as USPs for their customers, some were ‘motivated’ by having been convicted of environmental felonies, and others had charterers who demanded that owners had robust, progressive environmental policies consistent with their ‘green’ credentials. It seems that these factors will feature heavily in the drive towards protecting our environment.

The route to decarbonisation is seen to require urgent collaboration, something the various marine events happening at COP26 will help to foster. In that regard, I hope that the ministerial-level side-line ‘Shaping the Future of Shipping‘ event creates specific focus and discussion.

Among the exhibitors during COP26 is Maritime UK which has created a #NetZeroMaritime Showcase. This industry body has partnered with City of Glasgow College to exhibit green technology, cutting-edge projects and capabilities from the UK sector to the world, hopefully positioning the sector as one that is worthy of further UK government support.

It will be interesting to see how the outcomes of COP26 impact the marine industry and its regulation, and how Solis Marine can continue to offer our clients support through the ‘4th Propulsion Revolution’. Whatever the journey, Solis Marine Consultants are committed to supporting the industry in achieving its sustainable future.

Olli Short, Naval Architect, Solis Marine Engineering

International projects which advance the zero-carbon agenda and marine renewables sector are a cornerstone of our work in the UK and Singapore.

The UK government’s clean maritime plan, its route map for the transition to zero emission shipping, is to have zero-carbon commercial vessels operating in UK waters by 2025. To help meet this objective, SME has become a specialist hub with the knowledge base and skills to design and convert zero-carbon, electric, commercial vessels across the UK and globally.

Our team of naval architects are providing design consultancy for a new fleet of electric boats and propulsion systems.

In the south-west of the UK, we have been working with Pelagic Design to deliver an optimised low resistance hull design for Voyager Boatyard and Plymouth Boat Trips’ new Cremyll e-Ferry that maximizes the use of the stored energy available.

The e-Ferry will be designed and built to effectively operate in a congested maritime environment, with strong tidal conditions, rough seas and challenging berthing locations. It will also include additional zero-carbon solutions such as photovoltaic panels or similar renewable energy sources.

The initial design phase is now complete and Voyager Boatyard is looking for the next funding opportunity to advance to detailed design and manufacture of the vessel.

Another partnership, led by the University of Strathclyde with the University of Exeter, Solis Marine Engineering, Logan Energy Limited, O.S. Energy (UK) Limited and Chimera Energy Limited, is investigating the potential for full decarbonisation of marine shipping by assessing the feasibility of transitioning existing ships to hydrogen fuels and powertrains using enabling technologies.

This project was selected as part of the UK’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition and has an overall budget of £628,000, funded by the Department for Transport in partnership with Innovate UK.

We are also working with some smaller boat developments on hullform design to reduce drag and zero carbon powertrain options to reduce emissions.

It is predicted that by 2030, a third of the UK’s electricity will be generated by offshore wind. In renewable energies, SME is part of several projects working in wind, wave and tidal energy sectors.

There are several working groups in the south-west of England trying to understand and develop the infrastructure to enable the region to become one of the world leaders of floating offshore wind.

This is something I would like to see becoming a focus for the government. Currently there is the Celtic Sea Cluster and the Celtic Floating offshore wind accelerator pushing this forward in the south-west, but nationally this is also becoming a bigger focus.

Alongside floating offshore wind, we are currently working on several other renewables projects. WITT is one of these, a clean, green power solution with countless applications. WITT’s main aim is to use the technology to revolutionise off-grid power generation and reduce global CO2 production. To help this, SME is assisting WITT with the development of their innovative tidal and wave energy harvesting device through our expertise in fluid dynamics, vortex induced vibration (VIV) and wave mechanics.

It isn’t clear how much marine issues will form part of the formal discussions at COP26 and the weight they will be given. The agenda is fairly modest. However the sector is likely to be pressured further with aggressive decarbonisation targets.

That’s something for which we need to be prepared and require investment. It’s a transformational time for the industry and Solis Marine Engineering is pleased to be part of the global solution.

To find out more about our work in green marine, please get in touch. Email engineering@solis-marine.com or call +44 (0) 1326 618115.

Start typing and press Enter to search