Green Shipping | Part 2: Spotlight on Greenhouse Gases

Green Shipping | Part 2: Spotlight on Greenhouse Gases

September 2020 | Besides CO2, other greenhouse gases also have a negative impact on the environment. This is also a major issue in the shipping industry. If, like the Vogemann shipping company, you talk about “Green Ships” and want to promote their development in a sustainable way, then taking them into account is also part of it. This part of our series “Environmental Protection in Shipping” takes up the effects of greenhouse gases and shows Vogemann’s position in this respect. After all, the Green Ship Token is not only intended to play a green role on paper, but also to protect the environment in the long term. Spoiler: The supposedly environmentally friendly fuel, liquid gas, does not go down well here.

Even though carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, the other greenhouse gases are anything but harmless. The other culprits of greenhouse gases are

 

  • Methane (CH4)
  • Nitrous oxide, colloquially also called laughing gas (N2O)
  • as well as fluorinated hydrocarbon compounds, the so-called F-gases, and per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFC) 

Methane is mainly produced in agriculture and in waste disposal such as sewage treatment plants and landfills. Nitrous oxide also comes from agriculture, and is also produced in combustion processes and in the chemical industry. Both greenhouse gases are around 25 and 300 times more harmful to the climate than carbon dioxide. F-gases, on the other hand, are not produced naturally, but are used for coolants and extinguishing agents, among other things. 

How high is the proportion of the single gases in the overall pollution?

In Germany in 2018, 88.0 percent of greenhouse gas emissions were attributable to carbon dioxide, 6.1 percent to methane, 4.1 percent to nitrous oxide and around 1.7 percent to F-gases (source: Umweltbundesamt/German Federal Environment Agency).

Graph of annual greenhouse gas emissions in Germany

What is the greenhouse effect?

The greenhouse effect itself is neither something new nor something harmful. On the contrary, without it no life would be possible on our planet. This is because greenhouse gases allow the sun’s rays to pass through to the earth, but only partially absorb the heat that is radiated again. As a result we have a moderate climate on average. Without the greenhouse effect, we would have permanent minus degrees. 

The problem now, however, is the massive increase in greenhouse gases. They cause the temperature on earth to rise steadily – part of the notorious climate change. 

What is the International Maritime Organization (IMO) doing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Since 2018, the IMO no longer refers only to CO2 emissions in its guidelines, but includes all greenhouse gases in its resolution. While the CO2 emissions of international maritime transport are to be reduced by 70% by 2050 compared to 2008, a reduction of 50% in greenhouse gases is planned. 

The extension of the IMO strategy to the reduction of all greenhouse gases is an important step and responds to the criticism of the current calculation of the EEDI, whose formula only considers the CO2 emissions in the formula, but none of the other greenhouse gases (see also the previous part of our series).

This is because methane is now also taken into account – a greenhouse gas that contributes 84 times as much to global warming as CO2 over a period of 20 years. And methane escapes in not inconsiderable quantities when ships are operated with liquefied natural gas (LNG).  This type of propulsion is primarily intended to reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides. Recent studies have therefore come to the conclusion that many LNG propulsion systems on ships do, however, have a massive negative impact on greenhouse gas emissions. 

The IMO’s “Fourth Greenhouse Gas Study” shows a 150% increase in methane emissions from shipping between 2012 and 2018, which is said to be due to the growing number of LNG-powered ships. A value that is alarming.

Vogemann remains loyal to diesel propulsion

For the time being, Vogemann wants to stick with the highly efficient diesel propulsion of its ships. Alternatively, MAN diesel engines could be converted to LNG at relatively little expense. However, LNG is by no means the silver bullet, especially since availability is not guaranteed everywhere. As an innovative company, Vogemann naturally keeps an eye on the development – as well as new developments in the field of processed hydrogen /Power to X.

Would you like to learn more about the role of CO2 in shipping and how the Vogemann shipping company will expand its pioneering role with the Green Ship Token? Then read here part 1 of our series “Environmental protection in shipping”. Sulphur oxide emissions are the subject here, and you will also find the introduction to the series here