Sustainable bio-based and synthetic energy carriers are essential for reducing emissions. In order to determine the potential of alternative energy carriers for the maritime sector, TNO is conducting research into alternative fuels such as hydrogen, methanol, ammonia, liquid natural gas (LNG) and electricity.

Which energy carrier or composition of energy carriers will the future hold for the maritime sector? "To make the right choice, you first have to look at the operational profile of the ship," says Jurrit Bergsma of TNO. "Is it, for example, an inlandor a seagoing ship? And what is the energy carrier that goes with it? For example, hydrogen is a very interesting energy carrier, but the volume you need compared to diesel is much larger.”


"For an inland shipping company that is able to bunker in Rotterdam and Germany the volume issue is a smaller problem," continues Bergsma. "But if you have to completely fill a ship from Shanghai with hydrogen, there is no room left to transport goods. For this reason, you need to take a good look at where you apply specific energy carriers, and what the associated challenges are."

Methanol, ammonia and lng

TNO also researches energy carriers other than hydrogen, with a primary focus on methanol, ammonia and LNG. Bergsma: "In order to implement an energy carrier, you have to make integral considerations. What impact does a particular fuel have on the power train and is it possible to 'retrofit' the ship? In other words, introducing a new engine or modifying the existing one. Or think of the matter of incorporating it on board: how much space does the fuel take up and what is the safety situation? And, finally, what about operational aspects, such as costs?”


TNO also focuses on the origin of energy carriers. "Blending biofuels can reduce the carbon footprint in the short term. Unfortunately, biofuels are not the full solution. Depending on their origin, these have a potential undesirable impact onnature. We are also working with the VoltaChem innovation programme on the electrification of the chemical industry, for the production of synthetic fuels. The development of energy carriers for shipping cannot be seen in isolation from this.”


For various applications such as ‘peak shaving’, sailing on battery packs and shore power connections, there is also a great opportunity to reduce emissions. Extensive research is being carried out into the integration of battery packs based on energy consumption, and the estimation, optimisation and service life of batteries.

Want to know more or contribute?

Would you like to know more about TNO's research into alternative fuels and energy carriers or do you see opportunities to contribute to it?

Contact Jurrit Bergsma