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It's not about one fuel

21 January 2019

She is an expert on marine fuels, but has no idea which one will apply in the future.
- If I’d know I'd be rich. It’s not about one fuel, not one solution, says Karin Andersson, professor of Marine Environmental Science at Chalmers.

The above quotes are fully in line with what Karin Andersson thinks has been the most important thing that has come out of the research she has been involved in the last ten years. She mentions the word "impact".

” We have succeeded in raising awareness of what is important. Now there´s a multi-criterion thinking where one not only runs on sulfur one day and the greenhouse gases the other. We have done this by communicating simple facts. Take LNG, the fuel that would save  the entire EU, for an example. After all, it is actually a fossil fuel and if you release it unburned it is a greenhouse gas that is 30 times worse than carbon dioxide.”

Thus she does not dismiss LNG. Or for that matter any of the other fuels discussed for the future. Several solutions are needed if we are to achieve the goals of an emission-free shipping.

”There is a lot of things going on, for instance in the car industry that shipping can benefit from. Electrification comes strongly, perhaps not because you have to go to Singapore on electricity but because you need it as a help system on shorter distances.”
”Biofuels will never support shipping in full, but there are actually other ways to bind solar energy and make fuels.”

If Karin Andersson had been told 10 years ago that she in the near future would professor in Marine Environmental Science, she would have been surprised.
”It shows that it is possible to become a researcher again after fifty”, she says with a laugh.

By that time, she hadn't been researching for several years. She had just completed a period as Vice Principal at Chalmers – a task that fell naturally to her.
”I have never turned down the administrative work. I like to network, see opportunities, to be involved and influence.”

She had the right previous experience. In 1990, she, together with Torbjörn Svensson, founded the research group for Environmental System Analysis at Chalmers, which became a driving force in the development of research on life cycle analyzes in Sweden.
”In the beginning people thought so and so about it. Some supported, but there were also those who wondered what we were doing there? "We shall not do this type of research at Chalmers." In fact, we received most support from the industry. Volvo, Saab, Vattenfall…”

Today, the thinking has changed. And to someone , who never really intended to pursue an academic career, but was drawn to it because she was burning for environmental issues, that feels good.
”Environmental issues goes like a red thread throughout my career. For a while, actually for seven years before I applied for the position as a senior lecturer in 1988, I was a consultant in the field.”

Shipping then? The research group for Environmental System Analysis had collaborated with all kinds of industry except for shipping.
”I hadn't even thought it was there”, says Karin Andersson.

But when the period as Vice Principal ended the offer came: Would she like to participate and build up research that will support the education for future generations in the maritime sector? There was SEK 100 million sufficient for ten years.

”That was tempting. And a cool challenge!”

For Karin Andersson, who is a chemical engineer from the beginning, it was also fun to start researching again.
”When you come down to a machine room, it begins to pat the heart of an old process engineer. Here’s all this stuff I once learned about. A ship is like a floating factory.”

Yes, an old unspoilt factory in terms of environmental thinking. But a lot has happened in ten years, says Karin Andersson. Understanding is greater and there is a great desire to test new ideas through the industry.
”Many companies are interested and work with environmental issues . Wallenius received SEK 27 million in December from the Swedish Transport Administration to develop its wind-powered Zero concept. Stena works with electric drive and has worked with methanol development …”

For Karin Andersson though, it is time to step down. Soon she will retire. But not quite. An EU project, which is based on what she describes as "an amazingly crazy technology idea", she is not going to let go.
”It is about using methanol as an energy carrier for a hydrogen-powered engine. A lot of good technology and knowledge will come out of this!”

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