New fuels a step towards a better environment

The shipping industry faces a major challenge when the industry must replace its current shipping fuel. Lighthouse researcher Selma Brynolf have taken a closer look on different new fuel alternatives in her dissertation.

Selma Brynolf, PhD-student at Chalmers and co-financed by Lighthouse, will defend her thesis on May 23.

Under the new regulations, we must reduce our emissions, yet it is important to be cost effective. But there is still a long way to go when it comes to finding the perfect fuel.

- There is no easy solution. I am convinced that there will be problems no matter which fuel we choose. But all the fuels that I have examined are better than what we are using today, says Selma Brynolf.

In her thesis, named "Environmental Assessment of Present and Future Marine Fuels", she has investigated various types of fuel and their impact on our environment. Today, the maritime industry primarily uses heavy fuel oil, which is the absolute worst fuel from an environmental perspective and the cause of many of the shipping industry’s environmental problems. Various emissions lead to various environmental problems - climate change, acidification and eutrophication. It affects the environment, but also people's health, and may cause corrosion of buildings.
- We have to change fuels now, as of 2015, there cannot be more than 0.1 per cent sulphur in the fuel used in the Baltic Sea and North Sea. This will have some positive effects on the environment, but the best thing would be to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide, which contributes to many types of environmental impacts. In order to do this, you have to control the emission of nitrogen oxides harder, says Selma Brynolf.

Selma's work is based on a life cycle perspective, which covers everything from raw material extraction to refining, transport, fueling and combustion. Ten different fuels, from three different kinds of materials have been investigated: oil, natural gas and biomass. To reduce the environmental impact of shipping you need to switch from heavy fuel oil to other fuels such as LNG (liquefied natural gas), methanol or biofuels.
- It's not realistic to begin with biofuels on a large scale in shipping. LNG is not the ultimate solution if we want to reduce the effects, but it can be a step forward.

Selma Brynolf will defend her dissertation on May 23, "Environmental Assessment of Present and Future Marine Fuels". She holds a Bachelor in Engineering Physics and a Master in Industrial Ecology from Chalmers. For the past five years, she has conducted her research as a doctoral student at Shipping and Marine Technology, and she thinks it has been five very good years.
- There has been an interest in these issues, so it has been fun. I have been interviewed and invited to conferences to talk about fuels. And I think there will be the focus on these issues in the future as well.

On Friday May 23 Selma Brynolf will defend her thesis, at Chalmers Lindholmen, house Saga, lecture room Alpha between 10AM and 1PM. The dissertation seminar is open for the public.