Parametric trend life cycle assessment for hydrogen fuel cell towards cleaner shipping

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Given the rapidly increasing concern of the climate change, this paper is aimed to answer whether hydrogen fuel cells can truly be a green solution in the shipping sector from a life cycle perspective. To achieve this goal, the parametric trend life cycle assessment which is LCA-based methodology was applied for around 2000 ships presently engaged in international and domestic services. The lifecycle environmental impacts of various hydrogen production methods were evaluated, including steam methane reforming, coal gasification, methanol cracking, and electrolysis via wind energy. The performance of three representative types of fuel cell systems, proton exchange membrane fuel, molten carbonate fuel cell, and solid oxide fuel cell were taken into account. The steam methane reforming and coal gasification processes were found to have the greatest environmental potentials across their lifetime. However, this paper points out that steam methane reforming could make better lifecycle merits than conventional diesel or LNG products, if production pathways are properly proposed. Additionally, when using LNG as the primary fuel source for fuel cells, it was found that the LNG upstream phase would produce about 100 times more emissions than the downstream phase. The research findings were summarized and condensed into a form of lifetime environmental indicators which enable us to understand/evaluate the quantified correlations between holistic environmental impacts of fuel cells and ship characteristics. The research findings are expected to assist stakeholders in making informed decisions, while also providing an insight into near-future regulatory frameworks and policy making for a green hydrogen maritime economy.
Original languageEnglish
Article number133777
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Early online date26 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2022


  • hydrogen
  • fuel cell
  • decarbonising shipping
  • parametric trend life cycle assessment


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