The feasible pathways to meet the huge challenge of decarbonising aviation and shipping sectors have been highlighted in new research from sustainable development consultant Arup and Opportunity Green.

The research, focused on the EU and UK, is being launched to coincide with London International Shipping Week, where future fuel mix is a hot topic of debate under this year’s theme of decarbonisation.

SASHA Hydrogen Derived Fuels for Aviation and Maritime Study examines the possible pathways to sustainable fuels for both sectors. It outlines the importance of hydrogen and sustainably sourced carbon in the aviation and shipping sectors and highlights the need for policy to ensure that these solutions can be rolled out at scale.

Together shipping and aviation account for 4% of global energy related CO2 emissions. Shipping and aviation are both considered hard to abate sectors that will require prioritisation from both government and industry to enable decarbonisation. This prioritisation will allow for necessary technology advancements and for the sustainable fuels market to develop to support the fuel transition.

Important takeaways include:

  1. All sustainable aviation and marine fuel pathways, except direct electrification, require hydrogen in the production pathway.
  2. All pathways are likely to play a role in decarbonising the aviation and shipping sectors. This is due to feedstock constraints for a number of the production pathways.
  3. The sustainable fuel transition provides an opportunity to create inclusive economic growth through good quality jobs, addressing the gender imbalance and benefitting developing countries.

Arup worked with Opportunity Green to produce the research for the Skies and Seas Hydrogen-fuels Accelerator (SASHA) Coalition. The coalition aims to create clear and strong messaging around the vital role of green hydrogen and DAC in the decarbonisation of the aviation and shipping sectors, and facilitate discussions between EU- and UK-based policymakers and key industry leaders. 

Clearly, shipping and aviation will be unable to decarbonise at the scale and pace required without alternative fuels. It’s unlikely that there will be a ‘one solution fits all’ fuel for these sectors, but one thing this research tells us is that green hydrogen will play a critical role in their decarbonisation as a feedstock for the majority of sustainable fuel pathways. Without green hydrogen, these sectors will struggle to find satisfactory zero emissions solutions.

Sally Prickett

Director of Hydrogen, CCUS and New Fuels, Arup Advisory team

There is a worrying delay in green hydrogen production, which means that if aviation and shipping don’t make their case clearly and loudly now, they won’t have access to fuels that will truly lead to sustainable decarbonisation. Governments are already prioritising other industries for hydrogen, so without stronger policy, aviation and shipping will be overlooked.

Aoife O’Leary

CEO of Opportunity Green and Director of the SASHA Coalition