Low-emissions transport fuels to decarbonise shipping and aviation

On 4 October the International Energy Agency brought together experts from government, industry, research and civil society to discuss the role of low-emissions fuels in decarbonising the international maritime and aviation sectors.   

The workshop was attended by around 20 in-person participants, as well as 17 online attendees from 13 countries. Participants included senior officials from governments and subject experts from United Nations bodies, as well as from industry associations, academia and various think tanks. Attendees also included members of the Transport Project Partnership and representatives of Technology Collaboration Programmes relevant to the topic.

Low-emissions fuels are widely recognised to be the primary technology option needed to abate greenhouse gas emissions from the international maritime and aviation sectors. These long-distance transport sectors require high energy density fuels, meaning that direct electrification is — from today’s perspective — likely to be limited to short-distance and smaller vessels and aircraft. Increasing the use of low?emissions fuels such as sustainable biofuels, hydrogen and hydrogen?based fuels, will therefore be key strategies to decarbonise shipping and aviation operations.

Sustainable bioenergy, as well as low-emissions hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels, ramp up from less than 1% of energy consumed today in shipping and aviation to almost 15% in 2030 and 80% by 2050 in the 2023 Net Zero Roadmap. Scaling up fuel production to meet the needs of these sectors will demand investment and policy support for production and distribution infrastructure, as well as action to create a market for low-emissions fuels.

Workshop participants discussed the key priorities for scaling up production of low-emissions fuels, including addressing challenges associated with increasing production while ensuring the sustainability of supply chains on a lifecycle basis. Potential demand for various low-emissions fuels in shipping and aviation was also discussed. Scaling up production and use of low-emissions fuels necessitates enhanced co-ordination between fuel suppliers, users and technology developers, as well as across different local, national and international authorities responsible for the aviation and maritime sectors.

The workshop served to update and deepen analysis on low-emissions fuels, such as that covered in the recently published update to the Net Zero Roadmap, as well as in Energy Technology Perspectives 2023, and in Tracking Clean Energy Progress. To track developments on individual technology designs and components for the use of low-emissions fuels in aviation and shipping, see the ETP Clean Energy Technology Guide.