Roadmap 2050: the decarbonisation of rail and maritime transport

Europe has set itself the goal of reducing greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions by 2050, which are very much related to general industrial activity.

In this post, we are going to look at the transport sector in Spain, focusing on the Deloitte report A decarbonised Spanish transport model by 2050 (March 2017), which addresses the situation in relation to the different means of transport in Spain and details the measures that should be implemented to reduce emissions within the established deadlines.

The reasons lie in the fact that transport is the activity generating the highest volume of greenhouse gas emissions, with a reduction of only 8% over the past 15 years in terms of these types of gases. These figures are in contrast to the figures of 31% and the 32% in terms of reductions related power generation and industry, the other two sectors that generate GHG emissions in Spain.

Deloitte is promoting electrical vehicles for passenger transport through an incentivisation programme, offering particular benefits of a taxation and financial nature, when updating the fleet, which will help to move towards more “green” units, such as electrical vehicles. It also recommends the development of a network of publicly accessible charging stations, or posts, available on public roads, fast and semi-fast charging stations in very populated areas such as work sites, leisure centres, public garages, etc., just to name a few.

Road and Rail freight transport

The recent Deloitte report on decarbonisation also analyses the Freight Transport sector,  highlighting the factors that are transforming the current logistics system and the transport solutions involved. It takes a particular look at regulatory and policy developments (European emission standards VI14), the new service and consumption models (such as e-commerce) and the development of new vehicle technology  (citing driverless cars as one example).

It also promotes the change in energy vector to foster this decarbonisation (with the shift away from using petroleum towards the use of electricity or gas). This involves the promotion of the use of electric or natural gas rail transport for heavy-duty transport as well as trucks (electrical or natural gas) for light transportation, in order to achieve a reduction of up to 50% of greenhouse gas emissions. How will this be achieved?

This will also involve offering tax incentives for the purchase of this type of vehicle, the prohibition of the light transport of goods using conventional vehicles through urban centres from 2020 onwards, etc. They also recommend investing an average of 900 million euros a year (10 to 17 billion for the next 15 years) to reduce the cost of rail transport by between 30 and 70%.

These items would be allocated to the improvement of rail network connections with the main seaports, building intermodal logistics centres with rail connections and all the necessary equipment and facilitating these connections to large factories and industrial estates. What is the purpose of doing this? A modal shift towards rail transport, to change the situation in Spain, where approximately 210 billion tonnes/kilometer of freight was transported in 2014, 95% of which was transported by trucks and the remaining 5% by freight rail transport.

Maritime transport

A decarbonised transport model for Spain by 2050 in terms of maritime transport recognises the difficulty in eliminating their GHG emissions and makes a comparison between ships and vehicles, referring to data from 2014, where the emissions of sulphur oxide (SOx) from the auxiliary engines of ships berthed in Spanish ports are equivalent to that of 30 million vehicles.

The importance attributed by the European Commission to the impact on health and quality of life of the affected population led to the policy measures adopted to reduce these emissions. These include the gradual obligation to reduce sulphur content in fuel that may be used by ships at berth, the obligation of countries to ensure the supply of natural gas (LNG) and electricity to ships at berth, in addition to the establishment of standards to ensure the interoperability of connection of power supply systems with alternative fuels throughout the European Union, as reflected by Deloitte.

This is the reason for Deloitte’s focus on the development of facilities for the supply of natural gas or electricity for ships at berth for the decarbonisation of the sector. And the reason why? Because the use of LNG allows the reduction in emissions of pollutants, with a 100% reduction of SOx and 90% of nitrogen oxides (NOx), both at ports as well as during navigation (essential in sea areas with restrictions on emissions, if there is no gas cleaning systems in place), and reducing between 25 and 40% of CO2 emissions. The use of electricity allows for total decarbonisation, if it is generated with a 100% renewable mix.

The “disadvantage” involves the high investment and the cost involved in providing power supply to ships, which can be 50% higher than conventional fuel.

Despite this possible obstacle to the changeover of energy sources used for ships, the report highlights the progress made in different parts of the world for the reduction of emissions, such as in the ports of Hamburg, Rotterdam and Antwerp (in the north of Europe), or the ports of Seattle and Los Angeles (along the American west coast) with the supply of electricity, or about 80 vessels already powered by LNG.

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