Professor Lynn Loo joins SNIC 2022: ‘We need to bend the emissions curve now’

Lynn Loo Featured


Singapore and Norway are leading the way. SNIC 2022 on 18 November at Conrad Centennial is a call to action for maritime decarbonization. Professor Lynn Loo and the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation are proud to be an ally toward a zero emissions future. ‘We look forward to how we can collaborate to bend the emissions curve now,’ states Ms. Loo.

In this interview, you will get Dr. Lynn Loo’s view on :

  • How her scientific background contributes to her work on innovative decarbonization actions.
  • What politicians, regulators, and the industry need to do to reach the decarbonization goals
  • How the industry can profit from pivoting in the green direction
  • The potential of ammonia and drop-in biofuels to reduce the carbon footprint of the Maritime industry
  • The business potential in innovations and technologies in the pipeline
  • How we can make SNIC 2022 impact the industry’s pivoting towards less GHG emissions.

Register for SNIC 2022 here

Dr. Lynn Loo, you have a background as a chemical engineer and professor in engineering. You also have a long career as a successful researcher and inventor. Could you share the importance of this background in the work you are doing now on innovative decarbonization solutions?

As a professor at Princeton University, I lead a team of researchers developing emerging solar cell technologies with new materials. For instance, we recently published in Science, one of the top journals in academia, how we have been able to extend the operational lifetimes of perovskite solar cells by introducing a thin interfacial layer that is only a few nanometres thick. With this technology and at an operational lifetime of more than 30 years, we are the first to demonstrate perovskite solar cells with commercially relevant lifetimes. In this same article, we introduced an accelerated aging test. This test is broadly applicable for evaluating the stability and lifetimes of solar cells.

My academic training in engineering has brought scientific rigor to our scoping and due diligence processes at GCMD. At GCMD, we are similarly hypothesis-driven and fact- and science-based. And I enjoy digging into the smallest detail to understand better the context with which we are scoping our pilots. We regularly write down chemical reactions to appreciate the stoichiometry and the bottlenecks of producing green fuels.

More recently, my foray into energy systems analysis and integration at the Andlinger Center, also at Princeton, has given me an appreciation for macro-level dynamics and complexities associated with multi-body problems. This training has come in handy. Especially regarding the complexities and inter-relationships up and downstream along the supply and value chains in the maritime sector.

My role at GCMD has also similarly influenced how I lead my research team at Princeton. The questions that drive our research inquiries are now more pragmatic. Commercial relevance and urgency feature prominently when I scope new research projects with my Princeton team.

What is your most fulfilling accomplishment since taking on the CEO role of GCMD?

I am most proud of the team I have assembled at GCMD. The project team comprises engineers and scientists. Some have extensive maritime experience, and others have energy technologies and systems expertise. Complementing this technical team is a communications team whose members are passionate about decarbonization. Our discussions are rich and diverse because each team member brings a different perspective. And common among them is their strong commitment to the cause. has allowed us to hit the ground running. I am humbled to be working alongside them. And I am confident that in due course, the pilots and studies we have thoughtfully commissioned, as well as others in the pike – will deliver a meaningful impact on the maritime sector’s decarbonization efforts.

We constantly hear messages emphasizing ‘collaboration,’ ‘partnerships,’ and ‘we don’t have much time.’ Over the last years, very few have been in doubt about which challenges we face. And we are not in doubt of the consequences we face being unable to solve these challenges. As you see it – what is the recipe to reach the decarbonization goals? What do politicians, regulators, and the industry have to do?

Decarbonization is an effort that requires all hands on deck. The stakeholders are diverse and can often have seemingly disparate priorities. GCMD’s neutral position allows us to convene across such various stakeholder groups. Regulators, standards, and policymakers are at our table. In addition to key players across the supply chain of the maritime industry.

One of our founding partners, the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA), supports us by connecting us with regulators and relevant agencies, with whom we then help jumpstart and facilitate dialogue to understand the challenges and accelerate the establishment of regulatory sandboxes as needed for pilots and trials. We work closely with regulators where it is appropriate. This is to ensure the learnings from the demonstration projects and studies supported through GCMD can benefit the drafting of policies, guidelines, and standards to decarbonize the maritime sector.

Our involvement with the various technical committees and trade associations (such as SSA and ICS) gives us access to understanding the challenges on the ground. Thus, we can work with them to help define standards to accelerate the adoption of alternative fuels.

Feedback from the industry is also key to ensuring we answer the right questions and address the right pain points. To do so, we tap on our wide-ranging industry network to provide us with the inputs when we are ideating and scoping projects. We collaborate with like-minded industry partners to deliver the necessary outcomes. Our many conversations with industrial stakeholders indicate their enthusiasm and willingness to work with us in understanding and tackling critical bottlenecks on the different pathways for maritime decarbonization.

The bulk of emissions for shipping happen between ports outside any country’s jurisdiction. Maritime routes vary in multiple aspects. Among them are traffic, types of vessels, GHG emissions reduction potential, and proximity to green fuel sources. Thus, GCMD believes in a dual-action approach to tackling maritime decarbonization, focusing on the ground-up. Local needs, capabilities, and availability of resources drive these route-specific action plans. We also further support a broad-based approach that integrates infrastructure, vessel, and GHG reduction opportunities across all levels of technology.

For in-depth information on this perspective, click here to read our research paper titled “Dual Actions: National and Route-Based Plans to Tackle GHG Emissions from International Shipping.”

And perhaps, the necessary perspective. How can the industry profit from pivoting in the green direction – after all, they are businesses, not environmental NGOs?  Are we on the right track? Does it go quickly enough?

Increasingly, cargo owners (i.e., customers) demand greener shipping options and are looking to reduce emissions across their value chain. Because these future fuels have more complex upstream supply chains, starting with the availability of green electrons, it is essential to take a holistic and end-to-end supply chain perspective when assessing the availability and time needed for production and scale-up – and GHG emissions reduction – associated with these future fuels. Working with fuel suppliers and other upstream players will facilitate optimization of the supply chain and reduce the cost premiums associated with their deployment.

Internalizing the cost of pollution through a carbon price will also help reduce the cost gap between green fuels and conventional fossil fuels. Shipping is a global industry regulated by a single entity. Hence,  there is an opportunity for the sector to propose and adopt market-based mechanisms across all ports to help offset the green premium associated with deploying alternative fuels while maintaining a level playing field for all stakeholders.

Lastly, shipping can benefit from demand aggregation of alternative fuels with different sectors (i.e., aviation and power sectors) to avoid duplication – and thus reduce capital costs – associated with common infrastructure buildout, e.g., storage facilities for future fuels, etc.

What are currently the solutions that GCMD is piloting?

Since the beginning of this year, GCMD has launched two initiatives. These are an ammonia bunkering safety study and a consortium to establish the supply chain integrity of drop-in fuels.

The ammonia bunkering safety study is a necessary precursor to demonstrating ammonia bunkering. This study intends to define a robust set of safety guidelines and operational envelopes that will establish the basis of a regulatory sandbox for trials at two local sites for an ammonia bunkering pilot. The study will also build on guidelines developed for the safe handling of ammonia as cargo by defining and then integrating or overlaying the guideline required for the safe handling of ammonia as a bunker fuel. Once we have defined the safety and operational envelopes, we will operationalize proxy pilots shortly after.

GCMD appointed a DNV-led consortium to lead this study. Surbana Jurong and Singapore Maritime Academy are collaborators. Twenty-two other industry partners across the supply chain also contribute. You may refer to this press release for more information. The study is thus far on schedule and has not identified any showstoppers for ammonia bunkering in Singapore waters. We will release the study results broadly – after consultation with the relevant regulatory authorities and key industry stakeholders.  We expect to present the results in Q1 of 2023.

The consortium for the integrity of drop-in biofuels supply chain was formed to establish an assurance framework that ensures supply chain transparency of these fuels. The framework’s applicability can be extended to future drop-in green fuels. Such fuels include bio-LNG, bio-methanol, and green ammonia when they become available at scale. For this pilot, 12 vessels will be bunkering at three ports across three continents. During their bunkering, we will track sustainably sourced biofuels’ quality, quantity, and emissions reduction. In addition, this pilot will be the first to assess crude algae oil as a marine fuel. You may refer to this press release for more information.

Why have you chosen them, and what is their potential to reduce the carbon footprint of the Maritime industry?

Ammonia is an efficient hydrogen carrier. As such, it is one of several promising alternative low-carbon marine fuels. Since bunkering is an essential marine operation and the operational conditions under which ammonia can be safely bunkered have not been articulated, this study is a no regrets move for the industry. The study reviews feasibility and assesses the cost-benefit. It also considers the local constraints imposed by the business of the Port of Singapore. Hence, the results indicate the subsequent planning and investment needed to set up the infrastructure for bunkering ammonia in Singapore waters. Importantly, we believe the study outcomes are extensible elsewhere. Thus it can similarly inform the future planning of operations and facilities buildout to accommodate ammonia bunkering at ports elsewhere.

Biofuels can be one of the near-term measures to reduce GHG emissions as they are available today. They can be deployed the same way as marine fuels with minimal changes to the existing distribution infrastructure, shipboard technologies, and operational norms of ships. However, no industry-wide assurance framework addresses concerns on the quantity, quality, and GHG emissions reduction of biofuels. Nor one that safeguards their premium and value. Our pilot directly addresses this pain point that stakeholders have repeatedly brought up. In doing so, we aim to increase user confidence and accelerate the adoption of biofuels to reduce GHG emissions in the near term.

What are some exciting upcoming innovations and technologies in decarbonization in the pipeline? In what way do the solutions create business opportunities?

We are in favor of onboard carbon capture technologies (OBCC) because they can potentially be implemented in the medium term to reduce carbon emissions before green fuels are available at scale. Combined with synthetic-LNG, or e-methanol fuel blends in the future, such technologies can provide opportunities for negative emissions.

We feel that wind-assisted ship propulsion solutions become more interesting for the industry if they can enhance their performance beyond current norms or reduce ROI. Currently, we are in the process of evaluating a promising solution which claims to be able to achieve the latter.

To this end, GCMD is assessing the viability of marine carbon capture through pilots that aim to address the following questions.
What is the net energy (and emissions) demand of a ship fitted with an OBCC system?
How will the CO2 be offloaded and handled downstream, and what is the net cost?
How much will an OBCC system cost, and what is the payback period?

It is great that you and GCMD join SNIC 2022. Could you share your thoughts on how we can make this conference impact the industry’s pivoting towards less GHG emissions?

To reach IMO’s 2030 and 2050 goals, there is a need to accelerate the deployment of scalable low-carbon technologies across the maritime ecosystem today. Contributions to technical committees to shape standards are key to accelerating the adoption of alternative fuels with lower lifecycle GHG emissions. And partnership is key in such endeavors, as partnerships with decarbonization centers like ours highly leverage the efforts.

At the start of the year, Norwegian Prime Minister Mr. Jonas Gahr Støre shared that Norway is well-placed to lead the development of ocean-based low-carbon solutions, including the likes of hydrogen, offshore wind, carbon capture, utilization, and storage, and that Norway wants to develop and export useful new technology for use beyond its borders.

And alternative fuels are making headway in Norway. For example, the Grieg Maritime Group is working with Wärtsilä to build an ammonia-fuelled tanker ready for service in 2024. From a timeline perspective, this is happening very soon. The industry can replicate the same success elsewhere, accelerating the uptake of green ammonia as a marine fuel.

These are enormous opportunities for collaboration, especially with an international business community such as the Norwegian Business Association of Singapore. These collaborations can avoid duplication of efforts and aggregate demand to create a stronger pull for future fuels and share a common infrastructure. As such, the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation is proud to be Norway’s and SNIC’s ally toward a zero emissions future. We look forward to how we can collaborate to bend the emissions curve.