Modelling environmental life cycle performance of alternative marine power configurations with an integrated experimental assessment approach: A case study of an inland passenger barge

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There is pressure on the global shipping industry to move towards greener propulsion and fuel technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Hydrogen and electricity are both recognised as pathways to achieve a net-zero. However, in the evaluation of the environmental performance of these alternative marine power configurations, conventional life cycle assessment (LCA) methods have limitations reflecting the varied nature of ship design and operational modes. The integration of LCA with experimental assessment could remedy the shortcoming of conventional approaches to data generation. The system energy demand data in this study was generated based on specific ship design and directly fed into life cycle assessment. To demonstrate the effectiveness and potential the approach was applied to a case study of inland waterway vessel. Suitable hybrid PV/electricity/diesel and hydrogen powered fuel cell systems for the case vessel were modelled; and hydrodynamic testing and dynamic system simulation was undertaken to provide ship performance data under various operational/environmental profiles. Lifecycle assessment (LCA) indicated hydrogen and electrical propulsion technologies have the potential for 85.7 % and 56.2 % emissions reduction against an MGO base case, respectively. The results highlight that implementation of both technologies is highly dependent on energy production pathways. Hydrogen systems reliant on fossil feedstocks risk an increase in emissions of up to 6.3 % against the MGO base case. Sensitivity analysis indicated an electrical system with electricity production from 79.5 % renewables could achieve savings of 82.2 % in GHG emissions compared to the MGO base case. Crucially, the results demonstrate a further development of the LCA approach which can enable a more accurate environmental performance evaluation of alternative marine power configurations considering specific ship design and operational characteristics. Ultimately this addition makes the results more meaningful for commercial operations and decision making in the selection of alternative marine power systems to support the transition to net-zero.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173661
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date4 Jun 2024
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2024

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