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DNV: Calling the tune on future fuels

Maritime CEO has to bite our tongue on more than one occasion when in conversation with Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, the CEO of DNV Maritime, the world’s largest ship classification society.

Ørbeck-Nilssen repeatedly insists shipping’s fuel destiny is all about collaboration and that there are no winners, no race. Maritime CEO swiftly runs a red line through the first three questions tabled.

The Norwegian is speaking in the wake of the publication this week of the latest updated maritime forecast through to 2050, an 80-page report in which DNV showcased its so-called decarbonisation staircase.

The way Ørbeck-Nilssen sees shipping playing out is with LNG and LPG being readily available, and likely adopted in a big way this decade before other fuels get widespread adoption in the 2030s.

On the big news of Maersk ordering a slew of methanol dual-fuelled ships, Ørbeck-Nilssen says the Danish carrier is in a somewhat unique position thanks to its size – green methanol will not work for everyone, he stresses.

“Maersk has the size and power to move the pendulum,” Ørbeck-Nilssen says. “The key challenge here is one player like Maersk can source green methanol but for the industry as a whole the supply side is not there.”

Maersk has the size and power to move the pendulum

The DNV Maritime boss adds: “We are clearly not looking for one winner. The future will hold a number of fuels.”

Today’s fuel transition is not like the wholesale move from coal to diesel a century ago, Ørbeck-Nilssen reckons.

“The sooner we can realise the multitude of scenarios the better,” he says, brandishing a copy of his chart-packed 2050 forecast.

To the many detractors of LNG, Ørbeck-Nilssen’s argument is it is better to get moving rather than waiting years for alternative fuels to have the tech and infrastructure in place to go mainstream.

At press briefings, Ørbeck-Nilssen likes to mention songs by famous bands in alluding to key messages he is trying to get across. The Beatles and The Eagles have featured in the past. This week, in keeping with the rollout of his company’s decarbonisation staircase, Ørbeck-Nilssen picked out Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven and specifically the line: “And it’s whispered soon that soon if we call the tune then the Piper will lead us to reason.”

Ørbeck-Nilssen, who’s been with DNV since 1990, hopes he and his team are calling the right tune as shipping faces up to its great fuel dilemma.

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