In search of ‘El Verde’


El Dorado.

The golden city.

Throughout the time, many conquistadors engaged in a fruitless pursuit of the lost city of gold. History repeats itself in the 21st century as a myriad of ships sail all over the globe every day, while the shipowners have set sail on a voyage of their own.

In search of ‘El Verde’.  It is an established fact that nature is one gift to mankind which keeps on giving. Since the discovery of fire, a man set out in search of various energy sources. But as the wheels of time and innovation keep on rolling, this never-quenching thirst for ‘energy’ keeps invoking a covetous lust for ‘power’. In retaliation, our planet has finally spoken, and in an ironic sequence of events, our mother has plagued us with her agents of havoc. 

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2018 witnessed the IMO’s commitment to reduce the shipping industry’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2050 by at least 50% from levels in 2008, and to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 40% by 2030. To honour this, the entire marine fraternity has immersed itself in the vast pool of possibilities. Amongst the viable alternatives, the most common is LNG as a cleaner HFO replacement, at least in terms of SOx, NOx and particulate matter (PM). However, it has 28-36 times the global warming potential of CO2, defeating the whole purpose.

Biomass-derived fuels are also a considerable substitution. Unfortunately, they are predicted to initiate a domino effect in agricultural economics increasing nitrogen contaminants. LPG offers an immediate and cleaner solution as it reduces SOX by 90%, NOx by 20%, GHG emission by 24% and PM by 90%. Furthermore, renewable LPG can reduce emissions by 80% over its traditional counterpart, as adopted by the BW Balder in 2021. Methanol has been recognised as the most suitable alternative in terms of pollution prevention reducing SOX by almost 99%, NOx by 80%, PM by 95% and CO2 by 15%. Companies like MOL have already partnered with the Methanex corporation to leverage this technology.  

Image Credit: Liberty Sanders

Considering their role in reducing carbon footprint, the industry also needs to maintain the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of operations. Having said that, research teams employed by many companies are trying to find an optimal solution regarding factors like retrofitting, availability, cost and engine hybridization. Instances like BP joining Maersk’s zero carbon shipping are slowly paving a path towards a greener tomorrow, establishing a concrete alternative fuel of the future. 

On the other hand, the corporate greed of mighty oil corporations is choking local pyrolysis plants based in cities like Pune, which exploit waste plastic products to generate cleaner yet high-yield fuels. Giants who are still oblivious to the impending doom and set out to earn the wrong kind of ‘green’ must realise that the seas are boiling. And the very entities which tread on them every day play a paramount role in it. It is only a matter of time before the oceans assume their monstrous form and consume their traitors whole.

Author: Memon Faizal, Junior Engineer