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Two-thirds of European green shipping fuel projects at risk: T&E study

Two-thirds of European green shipping fuel projects are at risk, a new Transport & Environment (T&E) study shows.

T&E’s mapping of green hydrogen projects across Europe shows that nearly 4% of European shipping could run on green e-fuels by 2030. But fuel suppliers appear to be reluctant to commit financially to projects without more guarantees that there will be demand for these fuels shortly.

This means the vast majority of projects may never come online in this decade, putting Europe’s climate ambitions and thousands of jobs at risk, warns T&E.

"Hydrogen projects are popping up across Europe. They have the potential to power hard-to-decarbonise sectors like shipping and provide thousands of good jobs. But at the moment there just isn’t enough certainty and we risk missing this golden opportunity," stated Inesa Ulichina, shipping officer at T&E.

There are at least 17 projects across Europe, set up to provide hydrogen-based e-fuels for ships. If all of these projects become operational, they could meet nearly 4% of EU shipping’s total energy demand by 2030. T&E found 44 other hydrogen projects in Europe that could also provide green fuels for ships, but project developers eye other hydrogen-hungry industries, too.

The mapped projects would easily meet the European Union’s target of 2% green e-fuels in 2034, however, most projects are yet to receive funding and not a single shipping-dedicated project is operational. Fuel producers cite a lack of buyer certainty and investment security as major obstacles. This puts millions of tonnes of green fuels and thousands of skilled jobs at risk. Globally, it is estimated that green shipping could create 4 million new jobs by 2050.

Denmark alone accounts for more than half of all the planned hydrogen volumes across the 61 projects mapped by T&E. But in terms of fuels earmarked for shipping, Spain leads the way and is home to a third of the potential fuel supplies. Despite its large coastline, the UK has very few projects while T&E found none in Italy and Greece.

In the long run, e-ammonia appears to be the more popular option, making up 77% of potential volumes. To date, however, none of these projects has received a final investment decision.

Inesa Ulichina concluded: "Shipping has a chicken and egg problem. E-fuel producers are waiting for clearer demand signals from ship operators before making large investments. Shipping operators, on the other hand, are waiting for these fuels to scale up and become cheaper before signing off-take agreements. The EU should ensure more supply and demand of e-fuels through regulation, which will provide fuel producers and shipping companies with investment certainty."

T&E recommends that member states mandate at least 1.2% of shipping fuels to be e-fuels by 2030, as recommended by the EU’s green fuels law (RED III). This would secure all the current projects that have already received funding and allow more projects to reach a final investment decision. Revenues from the EU’s carbon market for shipping (ETS) should also be used to help nascent projects, says T&E.

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