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CMA CGM partners with Energy Observer on hydrogen-powered shipping

The CMA CGM Group, a world leader in shipping and logistics, is joining forces with Energy Observer, the first hydrogen-powered vessel to embark on a round-the-world voyage. (Earlier post.)

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Energy Observer, formerly a racing catamaran, is now an experimental platform for tomorrow’s energy sources. It is sailing round the world in order to speed up development of the most innovative solutions for the environment.

The CMA CGM partnership deals with the development of cleaner and more sustainable energies to eliminate CO2 emissions, greenhouse gases and air pollutants. It aims to experiment, test and develop energy solutions based on hydrogen, solar, tidal and wind power.

The green hydrogen used by Energy Observer is made from seawater using on-board renewable sources of electricity (solar, wind and hydropower).

CMA CGM will contribute its industrial expertise to this floating lab, in order to promote the use of hydrogen as a zero-emission fuel source for the shipping industry in the years to come.

CMA CGM and Energy Observer R&D experts will pool their expertise and knowledge to develop technological solutions capable of limiting the environmental impact of shipping. The mobilization of CMA CGM will make possible the industrialization of new concrete energy solutions tested on board this floating smart grid.

CMA CGM will also contribute its shipping and logistics expertise to Energy Observer. The Energy Observer village will be made from containers converted and transported by CMA CGM with the large-scale operational support from the whole CMA CGM network around the world.

Between 2005 and 2015, the Group reduced its CO2 emissions per container transported by 50%, and it has set itself the target of reducing it by a further 30% between 2015 and 2025.

Among CMA CGM’s environmental efforts:

  • A commitment to the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) for large capacity vessels. LNG reduces sulfur oxide and fine particulate emissions by 99%, nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85% and CO2 emissions by around 20%;

  • The decision that none of its vessels will use the Northern Sea Routes in order to preserve the fragile and unique ecosystems of the Arctic;

  • The world’s first partnership to successfully test a latest-generation biofuel, made from recycled vegetable oils and forest residues, that reduces CO2 emissions by 80% over the entire life cycle;

  • The development of numerous advanced eco-technologies on the Group’s fleet to improve its performance and reduce energy consumption: optimization of bows’ shape for better hydrodynamic efficiency, innovations on the propellers and the engines to reduce fuel and oil consumption;

  • The creation of a Fleet Center to which all the Group's vessels (506) are connected 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. This unique system in the maritime transport industry makes it possible to optimize shipping routes (including by reducing speeds) in order to combine operational efficiency, safety and fuel consumption optimization, thus reducing CO2 emissions.

  • The launch of an international coalition for the energy of tomorrow in order to federate all transport and logistics players. Supported by the French President, this high-level coalition is working on the development of clean energies for carbon-free transport.



When you look at the eco-boat, you think "dreamers".
When you look at the list of proposals you can see that there are some adults in the room.
Nice to see them reducing speeds as a way of reducing fuel consumption.
Can do on the sea and land, harder in the air...

Problem is that as long as fuel is so cheap, it is hard to get people serious about shipping.


This is truly a "dreamer" project and as @mahonj points out maybe there are some real applications for this novel use of wind, solar, and hydrogen.
The first approach would be to use some of these concepts in Hybrid System for Ships already pursued by marine propulsion companies like Rolls-Royce. There is even a large (>12,000 MT) sailing ship Sailing Yacht A that uses an MTU Integrated Propulsion System and sails. For commercial shipping hybrids would work using some of the CMA CGM LNG/biofuel ideas.
Of course, there could also be a "nuclear" approach. Small reactors are already used by the military and France is a leader in Naval Reactor design. They just need to be cost effective if they could ever be used in a commercial environment. My current interest is in "Micro Reactors", e.g. the Weastinghouse eVinci, which though small (up to 5 MW) might work in a hybrid propulsion system. This may not be far fetched. Already, the TechnicAtome together with CEA and EDF (with support from their Naval Group) and Westinghouse are looking into SMR design.


This technology promotion states "LNG reduces sulfur oxide and fine particulate emissions by 99%, nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 85% and CO2 emissions by around 20%;"
But recently posted
ICCT life-cycle analysis finds no climate benefit in using LNG as marine fuel
The results of a new analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) show that, when combined with a trend toward higher methane leakage and combustion slip, there is no climate benefit from using liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine fuel—regardless of the engine technology.
Would seem at odds with the promotion.

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