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Much has been made of the slower-than-expected to develop market for advanced automotive batteries and its recent impact on the U.S. advanced battery industry.  But just when things are looking darkest, a new light for the industry may be shining from an unexpected direction:  the sea.

International shipping accounts for about 3 percent of the world's emissions of carbon dioxide, the greenhouse gas widely blamed for global warming.  This share could go to 18 percent by 2050 if regulation is not in place, according to the International Maritime Organization.  Maritime shipping also produces significant NOx and SOx emissions, which account for as many as 50,000 premature deaths a year in Europe alone, according to Transport & Environment, an environmental advocacy group based in Brussels.

Governments around the world are moving to address these problems.  On January 1, 2016, the stringent Tier III restrictions on NOx emissions provided for in Annex VI to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) will become effective in designated Emissions Control Areas (ECA’s).  The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has promulgated rules implementing MARPOL Annex VI requirements in the North American ECA.  Just last month, the EU environment ministers approved rules that will lower sulphur emission limits in certain ECA’s to 0.1% (from 1.0%) beginning in 2015, and to 0.5% (from the current 3.5%) for cargo vessels in all other EU waters by 2020.

Certain governments may also soon regulate greenhouse gas emissions (GHG’s) on maritime vessels.  Although efforts to add GHG limits to MARPOL Annex VI have been frustrated to date by opposition from China and other developing countries, the EU announced last month that unless international efforts to regulate GHG’s in maritime vessels move forward, it will introduce its own rules governing that subject next year, much as it has done in aviation.

Even the EU’s efforts have been too slow for some.  Last month, the Government of Norway announced that it would double its carbon tax on its North Sea oil industry.  Norway has 51 active oil and gas fields in the North Sea and a fleet of hundreds of vessels dedicated to servicing those fields, all which are subject to the tax.

Advanced batteries can, of course, be an important tool in helping shipping concerns limit GHG and particulate emissions.  Much as in the case of hybrid automobiles, integrating an advanced battery into the powertrain of a vessel can increase fuel economy and lower emissions.  Vessels operating on full electric power can operate on a “no emissions” basis while in ECA’s.  While the potential size of the market for maritime batteries in light of the new shipping regulations is difficult to calculate (and is still somewhat speculative), it may well surpass the size of the near term market for advanced batteries in the automotive sector.

All of this translates into a great opportunity for U.S. advanced battery manufacturers.  Foreign shipping concerns have been contacting NAATBatt looking to acquire advanced battery systems and expertise in the United States.  NAATBatt is actively working to turn these inquiries into leads for our members.

I am pleased to announce that the NAATBatt Annual Meeting and Symposium next January 16-18 in Austin, Texas will begin with a pre-Symposium workshop on the maritime applications of advanced batteries.  NAATBatt Platinum Member DNV (www.dnvusa.com), which is developing standards and systems for advanced batteries in maritime vessels, will be sponsoring and hosting the workshop on the afternoon of Wednesday, January 16.  We will have in attendance special guests from Maritime Cleantech West, a group of shipping companies located western Norway, which are actively investigating the role of advanced batteries in maritime applications.

So don’t miss the program next January in Austin (click here for preliminary details) or the pending opportunity for advanced batteries in maritime applications.

Image: Batteries via Shutterstock