Future Proof Shipping is a company with just one mission: to make shipping emission-free. They do this by equipping existing ships with fuel cells. Fuel cells operate using hydrogen as a fuel and do not emit any harmful emissions. Unfortunately, however, the production of hydrogen and fuel cells is not yet emission-free.
Future Proof Shipping has therefore asked us to chart the CO2 emissions of various system configurations. On the basis of this, we have drawn up a recommendation for reducing CO2 emissions in the (near) future. Our research mapped out the entire CO2 emissions, for all the relevant life phases of a life stages of a hydrogen fuel cell:
Mining and processing of raw materials
Producing fuel cells, back-up batteries, hydrogen, and storage tanks
Distributing hydrogen and refuelling vessels
The operation of fuel cell systems
The impact and circularity of system components at end of life
The results showed in particular that 81-98% of life cycle CO2 emissions can be traced to the production of hydrogen. This dwarfs the effect of producing fuel cells, batteries and storage tanks. It is also worth noting that the total emissions depend very much on the production methods used. Electrolysis of hydrogen with sustainably generated electricity provides the most significant reduction in CO2 emissions: as much as 83% compared to diesel ships.
Based on these findings, we have provided advice on achieving CO2 reductions in both the short and long term. We have done this by means of a number of transition paths. These paths address crucial challenges in the transition to hydrogen-powered ships. These include challenges such as the availability of sustainable energy for hydrogen production, and the development of a distribution infrastructure.