Hydrogen fuel cells will help deliver zero-emission coffee cargoes from South America as Canadian roaster Café William moves closer to producing the world’s first carbon neutral brew.
Northern hemisphere coffee drinkers tend to consider themselves a discriminating bunch (“where can I get a proper cup of coffee around here?”) and have been some of the biggest backers of ethical brands, such as Fairtrade. Yet, the road from plantation to cup via a tattooed barista is paved with carbon emissions, because the best-quality Arabica beans only grow in the warmer climes of the southern hemisphere.
In fact, when compared weight-for-weight, the total carbon footprint of coffee can be as much as cheese, and half of one of the most polluting foods on the planet, beef, according to researchers at UCL. Much of that is down to how it is grown, including the use of carbon-heavy fertilisers.
However, transport also plays a major role, thus the importance of Café William’s investment in SAILCARGO, which is building Ceiba, a sustainably constructed vessel that will be world’s largest emission-free cargo ship when completed in 2023.
The 45-metre long vessel will be powered by wind and hydrogen fuel cells and deliver coffee beans from South America to its roasting plant in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
“Since coffee trees do not grow in cold regions like ours, it is inevitable that the harvested coffee beans are transported over long distances,” said Serge Picard, owner of Café William. “Our investment in this innovative project will allow us to considerably reduce our carbon footprint and, along with our other projects, to eventually produce a zero-emission coffee, a first in the coffee world.”
Hydrogen is emerging as the fuel of choice for decarbonising shipping. The world’s first commercial cargo ship powered only by hydrogen is being built in Giurgiu, Romania, and will soon be plying the river Seine in Paris. The Zulu cargo vessel, owned by French inland ship operator Compagnie Fluvial de Transport is being converted to run on compressed green hydrogen by the EU-funded Flagships project and is expected to complete sea trials early next year.
In June this year, HeidelbergCement and Felleskjøpet awarded a tender to Norwegian hydropower company Statkraft and utility company Skagerak Energi to supply green hydrogen to a zero-emission bulk cargo ship that is slated to operate between Eastern and Western Norway from late 2023.
In fact, hydrogen or ammonia, a compound of hydrogen and nitrogen, have few rivals as shipping companies look to wean themselves off bunker fuel, by far the dirtiest transport fuel still in use today.
“There is no question, hydrogen will be the energy carrier of shipping in 2050,” Lasse Kristoffersen, chief executive officer of Norwegian shipping giant Torvald Klaveness, told the Financial Times earlier this year.
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