The future of shipping is zero emissions, which can be achieved through the use of hydrogen fuel cells, according to major fuel company Shell.
In its most recent report, Decarbonising Shipping, the oil company claimed to identify hydrogen fuel cells as the fuel technology that had the greatest chance of helping the sea freight industry reach the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050.
At present, 3 per cent of all carbon emissions come from the shipping industry, with freight to Russia, the United States and China requiring huge amounts of heavy oil that traditionally fuels ships.
In the short term, before hydrogen fuel becomes commercially viable for the long-haul journeys required, liquified natural gas (LNG) is set to be used, as well as zero-emissions lubricants and wind assistance to improve the sustainability of the industry.
Hydrogen fuel cells have been trialled in other industries, including road freight, where the routes are long but significantly shorter than the thousands of miles a ship is expected to travel.
With oil demand significantly reduced as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the future for the oil appears to be outside of fossil fuels entirely. Whilst there is a transition period featuring more carbon-neutral fuels such as LNG and e-methanol, the hunt is on for a sustainable future for freight.
Hydrogen fuel is an option that has the potential to work as a fuel of the future. However, at present, there are issues with how pure hydrogen is obtained, with it primarily being produced through methane reforming.
Once sustainable electrolysis (running electricity through water to extract hydrogen) systems can be formed using sustainable energy sources at scale, hydrogen fuel has the potential to take over the freight market.