Black carbon emissions and fuel use in global shipping, 2015

Published: 2017.12.15

Bryan Comer, Naya Olmer, Xiaoli Mao, Biswajoy Roy, and Dan Rutherford

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In this report, we present an updated global inventory of black carbon emissions from the global shipping sector. To produce this inventory, we developed new black carbon emission factors based on the latest emissions testings research. We combined these emission factors with state-of-the-science terrestrial and satellite Automatic Identification System (AIS) ship positioning data from exactEarth and ship characteristics data from IHS Fairplay. We also analyzed the potential effectiveness of several black carbon control measures, including switching to cleaner-burning fuels and using diesel particulate filters (DPFs).

We found that ships emitted an estimated 67 thousand tonnes of black carbon in 2015, representing more than 20% of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions from ships on a 20-year timescale, making black carbon an important contributor to the sector’s climate warming impacts. Container ships emitted the most black carbon, accounting for 26% of emissions. However, cruise ships accounted for a disproportionately large amount of black carbon and emitted an average of 10 tonnes of black carbon per ship in 2015, almost three times as much as the average container ship.

We recommend several ways to reduce black carbon emissions from ships, including prohibiting the use of residual fuels, installing DPFs, establishing new Emission Control Areas (ECAs), creating a black carbon emission standard for ships, plugging into shore power at port, and including black carbon in the shipping sector’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy.