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First Round-the-World Hydrogen-Powered Vessel Journeys on Quest for Zero-Emission Shipping Industry

(Credit: Energy Observer)

The Energy Observer vessel, a hydrogen-powered “floating laboratory,” docked in Long Beach, California, this week; the boat is on a round-the-world journey with a goal of furthering alternative-energy research and raising public awareness of zero-emission technologies. Shipping company CMA CGM is partnering with the Energy Observer organization to promote large-scale deployment of hydrogen and other clean-energy alternatives. The two entities say they have a shared ambition of a zero-emission shipping industry.

Energy Observer is the first round-the-world hydrogen-powered vessel. “We designed her to prove that entirely decarbonized, decentralized and digitized energy is possible, and that such a virtuous circle is achievable,” according to the organization’s website.

Energy Observer’s technology provides potential for marine transport with electric propulsion completely fueled by renewable energies: sun, wind and marine currents. But what makes the vessel truly unique is her capacity for storing energy in the form of hydrogen produced from seawater, a technology enabling the vessel to navigate the globe entirely self-sufficiently, the organization says. Producing and burning hydrogen does not result in any greenhouse gas or fine particle emissions.

Hydrogen is a limitless energy source that generates up to four times more energy than coal and three times more than diesel.

The learnings from Energy Observer will be used in new R&D projects undertaken jointly by the two partners with the common goal of achieving zero-emission shipping and the large-scale adoption of hydrogen as an energy source.

CMA CGM also continues to heavily invest in other alternative solutions such as wind-assisted propulsion and green fuels, the company says. The CMA CGM Group has pledged that alternative fuels will cover at least 10% of its consumption by 2023 and is committed to carbon neutrality by 2050.

CMA CGM says it became the world’s first shipping company to successfully test a biofuel comprising 20% recycled plant oil and forestry waste. In 2020, the CMA CGM fleet of vessels reduced its overall emissions by 4% compared to 2019, having already reduced them by 6% in 2019 compared to 2018. Since 2008, the company has reduced its CO2 emissions by 49%, in line with its objective of reducing emissions by 50% by 2030.

The shipping industry is said to account for between two percent and three percent of global GHG emissions. It is responsible for 90% of world trade by volume.

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