Are there Alternative Fuels that can be Used Instead of Heavy Fuel Oil?

Yes. Many ships can switch easily and immediately to using distillate fuels without significant alterations to the ship. Not only can engines that use HFO burn distillate fuel, but this shift would also allow for the possibility of installing efficient particulate filters, which can dramatically reduce black carbon emissions (by over 90%).

In addition, more and more ships, including container ships and cruise ships, are being built to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG), which produces approximately 25% less carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions than conventional marine fuels such as HFO. However, LNG also produces significant amounts of methane, a potent climate forcer that traps 86 times more heat in the atmosphere than the same amount of CO2 over a 20-year time period [1]. For this reason, there are substantial concerns that a shift to LNG will not reduce the shipping sectors impact on the global climate and on the Arctic.

Overall it is likely that future fuel/propulsion power sources for Arctic shipping will consist of a mix of fuel types and power sources. Ultimately it is critical that the shipping sector transition away from fossil fuels. Likely future fuels for shipping include ammonia, hydrogen, along with electric propulsion for smaller vessels [2].

[1] International Council on Clean Transportation, The climate implications of using LNG as a marine fuel, Jan 28, 2020

[2] Transport and Environment: Beyond Fossil Fuels: The Case for the Arctic, October 2017