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Karin Andersson believes in sun and wind

18 May 2022

No plants are needed to bind energy. Renewable electricity can preferably be made directly from sun and wind, says Professor Karin Andersson who has now retired. But of course, a professor never really retires.

At the beginning of May, a farewell reception was held for Karin Andersson at Chalmers with an accompanying seminar. It was, of course, about the marine fuels of the future. As a professor of environmental science, Karin Andersson has devoted much of the latter part of her 35-year career at Chalmers to the complex issue.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, was the advice she gave her research colleagues when Lighthouse last interviewed her three years ago. She had no idea what fuel would apply in the future: "If I knew I would be rich".

But a lot has happened since then, not to mention everything that has happened in the six years that have passed since she and her research group published the book Shipping and the environment.

"There has been a momentum in research on alternative fuels. The development has been enormous around energy carriers in all sectors. Things that were thought to be pure science fiction or almost stupid ideas are today seen as fully realistic. Hydrogen and ammonia are the clearest examples."

So even though she has now formally left Chalmers, it´s not an option to fully retire when so much is going on. That book needs to be updated and come in a new edition.

"It's on. We probably will not have time this year, but hopefully next."

Hydrogen is energy efficient, fantastically good, says Karin Andersson. But the development is still in its infancy and both technology and infrastructure must be solved before any major part of the world fleet runs on hydrogen.

"There are several major challenges. Green hydrogen must be produced from renewables, which is mostly about sun or wind. And electrolysis requires a lot of sun but also a lot of water. Then you should also have a good way to distribute hydrogen to the place where it will be used. I think all this has to happen in more or less the same place."

So what technology should shipowners invest in today when ordering new vessels that will last for 40 years? The question makes Karin Andersson repeat exactly the same phrase as three years ago: "If I knew I would be rich".

"The internal combustion engines will be around for a long time and there is technology to capture carbon dioxide before or after combustion. I do not know if ammonia is a good solution and hydrogen is far in the future. This is not an easy question, but if you want to be really sure, I think you should choose an internal combustion engine with the possibility of using different types of non-fossil fuels."

So in other words, a good alternative is to invest in LNG with the opportunity to run on biogas?

"Yes, if you think that there will be biogas in sufficient quantities. The competition for biogas is quite fierce, which can make it tricky. It is possible that it is a little easier with methanol. If the production of green methanol starts, it can be at least as good. Today's resources of biomaterials for fuel are not sufficient to supply all world shipping. Far from it", says Karin Andersson.

She continues:
"I believe a lot in solar and wind and renewable electricity as a basis for production. It is not necessary to go through plants to bind energy. You can tie it directly and from there go to hydrogen or liquid fuels if that is what you need. But for some, biogas can be a good solution."

Shipping is very large, Karin Andersson usually says. Different segments will require different So will shipping meet set climate goals?

"I have higher hopes today than in 2016. The reason is that shipping has finally begun to realize that this is an issue that must be taken seriously. For example, it took a very long time before the IMO did so, but now the EU has taken the initiative and pressed on. Large shipping companies such as Maersk do the same. It is a global and slow process, but it feels better now."

(The picture of Karin Andersson is from the farewell recepetion on May 5 and was taken by Maria Grahn, a researcher at the Department of Mechanics and Maritime Sciences at Chalmers.)

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