Hydrogen-Based Fuels Reshape Global Shipping Routes

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  • Hydrogen-based fuels are reshaping global shipping routes and the fuel mix in the maritime industry.
  • While hydrogen-derived fuels such as ammonia and methanol present eco-friendly alternatives, they bring new challenges due to lower energy content and infrastructure requirements.
  • The shift toward hydrogen-based fuels demands new bunkering hubs and revised shipping routes, potentially altering the landscape of global maritime trade.

Emerging Hydrogen Bunkering Hubs

Traditional bunkering hubs like Rotterdam and Singapore may no longer be the sole major players as hydrogen-based fuels like methanol and ammonia become more prevalent. These fuels require larger storage volumes, leading to the emergence of new bunkering hubs in regions such as India and Latin America. India plans to establish a green ammonia bunkering hub by 2025, while Latin America is projected to become a significant ammonia exporter.

Middle East’s Role and Challenges

The Middle East is expected to supply large quantities of green and blue ammonia for export, but existing bunkering points such as Fujairah could limit significant route changes in the region. While the region will continue to play a key role in the supply of hydrogen-derived fuels, changes in established shipping routes may be minimal.

Methanol and Ammonia Dominate in the Long Run

Methanol dual-fuel engines are currently more popular due to ongoing regulatory development and cost advantages. However, the scarcity of biogenic CO2 and rising prices could impact methanol’s long-term viability. Ammonia is expected to dominate the market in the future, but a variety of fuels, including methanol and other lower-carbon options, will still play essential roles in shipping operations.

Direct Hydrogen Use and Safety Concerns

The direct use of hydrogen as fuel is less practical for long-distance shipping due to economic and safety challenges. Hydrogen fuel cells may find niche applications in specific routes, but they face competition from batteries. An incident involving a hydrogen-powered vessel experiencing a fire during its maiden voyage has raised concerns about the safety and feasibility of direct hydrogen use in the maritime industry.

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Source: Hydrogen Insight