Emerging as a pivotal strategy in the race against time to embrace sustainability, the shift towards synthetic fuels marks a significant moment for the maritime industry in this era. This transformation, driven by environmental mandates and the pursuit of decarbonization, spotlights the potential of various synthetic fuels to significantly reduce the carbon footprint of maritime operations. The study, spearheaded by Dr. Astrid Bensmann together with Professor Christine Minke from Technical University of Clausthal and Professor Richard Hanke-Rauschenbach and Dr. Lukas Kistner also from Leibniz University Hannover, embarks on a comprehensive analysis aimed at determining the most economically viable and environmentally friendly power systems for ships by 2030, as detailed in the peer-reviewed journal, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews.

At the heart of their investigation lies a comparative assessment of internal combustion engines and fuel cells powered by a spectrum of synthetic fuels, including hydrogen, ammonia, methanol, methane, and synthetic diesel. The research meticulously evaluates the economic and environmental ramifications of integrating these power technologies into maritime operations. The study’s methodological rigor is evident in its holistic approach, encompassing not only the immediate financial implications but also the long-term environmental impacts, thereby providing a nuanced understanding of the potential of these technologies to revolutionize maritime logistics.

Central to Dr. Bensmann and colleagues’ findings is the revelation that the choice of fuel and technology significantly influences both the cost-effectiveness and environmental sustainability of maritime operations. The analysis illuminates the competitive edge of fuel cells, particularly those powered by gaseous hydrogen, in terms of both economic and environmental metrics for missions up to 21 days, assuming cost parameters for the year 2030. This insight challenges conventional perceptions regarding the viability of gaseous hydrogen due to its low volumetric energy density, highlighting its potential in reducing system costs under certain conditions.

Moreover, the study underscores the dynamic interplay between fuel prices, shipboard volume opportunity costs, and mission characteristics in determining the most suitable power technology-fuel combinations. It brings to light the economic competitiveness of fuel cells operating on methanol or ammonia for missions exceeding seven days, thereby mapping a pathway for the maritime industry’s transition towards a greener future.

The implications of this research extend beyond the confines of academia to influence policymakers, industry stakeholders, and researchers alike. It beckons a paradigm shift in how the maritime sector approaches decarbonization, emphasizing the need for strategic foresight and the development of robust fuel supply chains. In essence, the work of Dr. Bensmann and her colleagues not only charts a course towards sustainable maritime operations but also serves as a critical resource for navigating the complexities of decarbonization in the shipping sector. In conclusion, the maritime industry stands at a crossroads, with synthetic fuels offering a beacon of hope for a sustainable future. The study by Dr. Bensmann and her team provides a pivotal foundation for informed decision-making, underscoring the importance of embracing innovative energy solutions to mitigate the environmental impact of maritime logistics, thereby ensuring the industry’s resilience in the face of regulatory and environmental challenges.


Lukas Kistner, Astrid Bensmann, Christine Minke, Richard Hanke-Rauschenbach. “Comprehensive techno-economic assessment of power technologies and synthetic fuels under discussion for ship applications.” Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 183 (2023) 113459.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2023.113459.


Since 2018, Lukas Kistner is working as a researcher with an electrical engineering background and a focus on ship power system configurations and techno-economic analyses. In 2023, he achieved his Dr.-Ing. doctorate at Leibniz Universität Hannover, Germany. His investigations cover the topics of hybrid power system design optimization, control strategies, economic and environmental assessments, different fuel cell technologies, and synthetic fuels.

Astrid Bensmann is working as a Senior Researcher and a Group Leader with the Section for Electric Energy Storage Systems at Leibniz University Hannover, Germany. Her research interests include modeling, design and operation of energy systems, characterization and operation of battery systems.

Richard Hanke-Rauschenbach is a Full Professor at Leibniz University Hannover, Germany, holding the Chair for electric energy storage systems. His research interests include electric energy storage systems, vehicle energy systems, multimodal energy systems, power to gas, and PEM water electrolysis.

Christine Minke is Professor for Circular Economy Systems Engineering at Clausthal University of Technology, Germany. She is process engineer by training and holds an MBA from the business school Collège des Ingeniéurs Paris. Her research focus is on sustainability assessment and circularity of emerging energy technologies. On the basis of deep engineering expertise, she develops life cycle assessment (LCA), life cycle costing (LCC) and related methods. She applies these methods to energy technologies along the entire value chain of sustainable energy systems: e.g. photovoltaics, power electronics, batteries and green hydrogen from electrolysis to fuel and feedstock applications.