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Exploring how technology could contribute to tracing the carbon intensity of sustainable marine fuels


During a recent webinar, speakers from LR Maritime Decarbonisation Hub and Safetytech Accelerator discussed their collaboration to produce a report which highlights ways in which innovative technologies can be used to validate the environmental and commercial impacts of using green fuels in shipping.

While much has been said about burning alternative and green fuels to decarbonise by 2050, it is equally important for the maritime industry to ensure that the fuels are produced and handled sustainably.

LR Maritime Decarbonisation Hub aims to realise the delivery of safe, commercially viable and technically feasible zero-emission fuels by 2030, while Safetytech Accelerator focuses on safety and risk in industrial sectors, with a mission  to make the world safer and more sustainable through the wider adoption of safetytech.

LR Maritime Decarbonisation Hub’s project manager, Natassa Kouvertari, said: “While shipping looks at alternative fuels, the lifecycle impact of these fuels must be taken into account, rather than pushing them upstream. This presents a challenge when verifying the carbon intensity of fuels for shipowners, for ports, for regulators and other stakeholders.”

Safetytech Accelerator’s commercial director, Gabriele Dado, explained that the one of the aims of the collaboration was to seek technologies capable of tracing the overall chain and carbon footprint of hydrogen and ammonia.

“Whilst being virtually identical from a chemical point of view, these fuels are not created equal. Based on  their production methodthey all have a different carbon footprint. How can buyers of so-called green fuels be assured that the fuels were produced, transported and handled sustainably? We thought it was very important to look at fuel production—where does the energy come from to produce these fuels and how is that generated?” Dado noted.

“If we are using fossil fuels to produce hydrogen,is this going to have a much higher carbon intensity than hydrogen that is produced, for instance, through electricity derived from green sources only. So first and foremost, where does the energy used to  produce the fuels come from?”

Dado added that before bunkering with hydrogen or ammonia, vessel owners and operators should ascertain whether the fuel has been blended or altered with non-green molecules of the same fuel.

After a thorough selection process, Australia’s TYMLEZ’ (pronounced “timeless”) blockchain solution for overall fuel chain verification and UK-based Authentix, were chosen to collaborate on the report.

Speaking about TYMLEZ’s guarantee of origin (GO) solution in the webinar, the company’s head of research and innovation, Dr Mohsen Khorasany said that the company’s blockchain platform monitors carbon intensity for sustainable fuels for different applications.

TYMLEZ’s platform is enabled by individual technologies and information validation and can follow any methodology, including the procedures of the International Partnership For Hydrogen And Fuel Cells In The Economy (IPHE) to calculate greenhouse gas emissions.

Dr Khorasany explained, “The data ingestion to the platform is done by way of a publicly verifiable signature. This signature is either produced at the source via custom device firmware that hashes the data as it leaves the device, or via a publicly verifiable, open-source code mechanism.”

This data forms a measurement, reporting and verification (MRV) package. These MRVs are then aggregated alongside the unit of measure (UoM), for example, 1 tonne of hydrogen or ammonia, to give the carbon footprint for that UoM. Once the UoM target is hit, a token is created that contains all of the signed MRVs for that particular UoM. This token contains the full traceability of all the information that an auditor would require to validate the readings.

The second assurance provider, Authentix, uses synthetic markers that are injected into the fuel to detect blending, miss-labelling, as well as the origin of the fuel.

Authentix’s vice-president, Jim Seely, reasoned that while blockchain technology contains critical data that can be shared among many stakeholders, it is still necessary to have a link between the physical and digital worlds.

Seely elaborated: “One challenge is that fuels are fungible so while the production method is critical to reducing the carbon footprint of hydrogen and ammonia, if the final product is chemically identical or even similar, the engines don’t really care. So grey and green (fuels) can be mixed, with no real impact on the final use.

“With fuels, they’re typically not packaged. There’s mixing in onshore tanks, there’s mixing in the ship tanks, all that happens regularly. So how do we assure that the digital record, for instance, showing 25% green ammonia in a tank, is accurately represented by the fuel itself? Authentix focused on how we might identify the physical product and assure that it matches the digital signature even after blending.”

Authentix has developed a system for liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which is stored and transported in a way similar to ammonia. The company’s system involves injecting a chemical marker in the LPG as it is pumped into tanks, agitating the tank filling to provide homogeneous mixing. The LPG can be sampled and tested with an analyser containing a specially designed high-pressure fuel cell, to identify and quantify the amount of marked LPG.

Safetytech Accelerator believes that technology plays a key role in decarbonisation, but that it has to go hand-in-hand with regulation, said Dado.

“It’s very important for regulation to become enforced to look at mandates and set a standard for the overall chain to say that the fuel we’re using must be green or blue. Otherwise, it’ll become purely a matter of price differential, with no incentive to verify whether we are burning a green fuel, a blue or a grey one.”

Dado’s opinion was echoed by Seely, who said that Authentix has experience with crafting legislation and regulation for fuel integrity in various countries.

He commented, “Regulations are best driven by full industry employment. As complex as green assurance is, it makes most sense to have industry stakeholders conduct control pilots to help mature the technology. And it’s critical to get industry buy-in as much as possible to better understand the impact of the regulations on processes and economics.”

Dr Khorasany however, thinks that private investment and collaboration between stakeholders will expedite technology and investment readiness for low-carbon fuel.

Schemes which reduce port fees for low-carbon users is an example of how industry can lead this without waiting for mandatory regulation, said Dr Khorasany.

He said, “Programmes like these incentivize vessel owners and operators to invest in the procurement of green fuel. Besides, some consumers are willing to pay premium prices for green fuel to support environmental sustainability plans.”

Want to know more? You can download the report here and watch the webinar on-demand here.