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Posts Tagged ‘fuel cell’

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Photo: John Greim/LightRocket via Getty Images
The world’s largest container-shipping company, Maersk, has promised to make its operations zero carbon by 2050. Doing so will require using new fuels, such as hydrogen.

Would you pay more for goods delivered on ships that don’t use fossil fuels? Many people can’t afford to pay more, so sometimes the idea of cutting our dependency on oil and coal seems impossible. Fortunately — because they don’t know what’s impossible — young people are leading the charge.

But even corporations are starting to think it would be to their advantage to go carbon free. Maersk, the world’s largest container-shipping company, based in Denmark, is one such corporation. And there are others.

As Rebecca Hersher reported at National Public Radio (NPR), “The global shipping industry is enormous — thousands of ships carry billions of dollars of goods each year across nearly every ocean on the planet.

“Those ships run mostly on a particularly dirty type of fuel known as heavy fuel oil, or bunker fuel. It’s thick and sooty, and when it burns, it emits sulfur and particulate matter that can cause respiratory illness. It also emits greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide and methane, which trap heat in the atmosphere and cause global warming.

” ‘If shipping was a country, it would be the sixth-largest polluter in the world,’ says Nerijus Poskus of the shipping technology company Flexport. ‘About 3% of global emissions are released by ocean freight shipping.’

“The industry is growing so steadily, he says, that it’s projected to produce more than 15% of global greenhouse gas emissions by midcentury if ships continue to burn the same fuel, which is a real possibility considering that most cargo ships are designed to last at least 30 years.

“Yet there are signs that the status quo is changing and that a new fuel could make cargo ships among the cleanest transportation methods on Earth. …

“The international body that helps create global shipping regulations has clamped down on emissions of some air-polluting substances when ships are in or near ports. The new regulations, which started going into effect in 2012 and which decrease limits dramatically in January 2020, require ships to significantly cut the amount of sulfur pollution they emit when they’re near land. For the U.S., the regulations apply anywhere within 200 miles of its coastline. …

“Additional increasingly stringent emissions standards are planned for the next two decades. The largest container-shipping company in the world, Maersk, announced in 2018 that it intends to make its operations carbon free by 2050, though it’s still unclear how the company would achieve that goal.

“What is clear is that success will require new ships, new engines and — above all else — a new fuel. … Research at the U.S. Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories suggests that of [liquefied natural gas and hydrogen], hydrogen is the most promising.

“Using hydrogen to generate electricity is very clean. Hydrogen fuel cells combine hydrogen with oxygen and create electricity and water. The electricity can be used to turn a propeller, for example. The exhaust from fuel cells is moist air — with no greenhouse gases. …

“Leonard Klebanoff, a researcher at Sandia … and his then-research partner, Joe Pratt, started systematically analyzing whether current ships could be retrofitted to run using hydrogen fuel cells instead of fossil fuels.

“Pratt says the project started when a San Francisco Bay ferry operator asked the Energy Department whether it was possible to switch his fleet over to hydrogen power. … The answer, they found, was yes.

“The main issue was about size. For each unit of energy, liquid hydrogen is about four times larger by volume than conventional diesel … but ‘the efficiency of a fuel cell is about twice as much as a diesel engine,’ Klebanoff says. …

“When they analyzed the entire system, Klebanoff and Pratt found that it would be possible to retrofit most types of existing vessels to run on hydrogen and even easier to construct a new ship powered by fuel cells.”

Read more at NPR, here.

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At the radio show Living on Earth, Steve Curwood recently interviewed Gary Cook of Greenpeace about an effort to get tech companies to be greener.

CURWOOD: “Back in 2012, you criticized Apple for using carbon-intensive energy from coal plants to power its servers. …

COOK: “Just after we spoke, they made a commitment to be 100 percent renewably powered, and as the end of last year, they even made that goal. So, it’s been quite a big shift.

CURWOOD: “100 percent renewable energy. How’s that possible?

COOK: “It requires some effort. Apple has done a lot in North Carolina where they have their largest data center in terms of deploying two different solar farms and an onsite fuel cell that’s powered with biogas energy, so it’s all renewable. They have several other data centers. … In Oregon they’re using wind; in Nevada they’re using solar.

“So they’ve actually shown a commitment from the top, been very aggressive, probably the most aggressive of any of the brands to make sure as they grow, they’re using clean energy.

CURWOOD: “Biogas. Where are they getting that from?’

COOK:” Currently, they’re getting that from landfill and some other renewable sources. The landfill is methane capture in the southeast, and they’re having that piped to where their data center is in North Carolina.”

The radio interview covers several other efforts tech companies are making. It’s a good thing, too, when you consider, as Living on Earth points out, “If the Internet were a country, it would be the sixth largest consumer of electricity in the world.” More here.

Photo: George Nikitin, Greenpeace
The Greenpeace Airship A.E. Bates flies over Facebook headquarters with a banners reading “Building a Greener Internet” and “Who’s The Next To Go Green?” Apple, Facebook and Google have committed to powering their data centers with renewable energy.

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