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Singapore-Norway maritime innovation pipeline speeds up decarbonisation

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Cristina Saenz de Santa Maria

About the Author:

Cristina Saenz de Santa Maria, who joined classification society DNV in 2005, is responsible for DNV’s maritime operations in South East Asia Pacific & India since October 2017 in her capacity as Regional Manager. In 2015 she became responsible for DNV’s maritime and oil & gas operations in Africa in her capacity as Area Manager and Country chair for Africa before moving to Singapore for her current role.

Singapore is playing a pivotal role to help bring about the decarbonisation of the global maritime industry. It all goes to show that a small island city state – and one that just happens to be the world’s most important bunkering port – can innovate and collaborate to show real leadership.

As I discovered through participating in several maritime and energy events in the last quarter of 2022, much more needs to be done – at home and abroad – but we are heading in the right direction.

However, we do need to speed up the process to tackle short-, medium- and long-term goals.

The maritime innovation pipeline to decarbonise the sector must contain a mix of solutions.

This became abundantly clear after meeting with key industry players at the Singapore Norway Innovation Conference (SNIC) in November.

Among this mix of solutions are new low- and zero-carbon green fuels, more energy efficiency technology, and greater supply chain optimisation, including the activation of more green shipping corridors.

We are all helping to move shipping in the right net-zero direction, but we must move faster. This can be done by harvesting the low-hanging fruit.

Singapore Senior Minister of State for Transport Chee Hong Tat reinforced this by saying we must “explore and scale up the safe use of low- and zero-carbon fuels” as these alternative energy sources have the greatest potential to help us reduce carbon emissions.

But he also said, “technical measures, such as wind-assisted propulsion, and main engine tuning and derating” can reduce vessels’ fuel consumption and improve energy efficiency significantly.

Other steps that can be incorporated are better planning of ship journeys and data sharing to reduce waiting times of vessels. “These are no-regret moves that will not only be good for businesses, but also for the environment,” he said.

To emphasise the importance of public-private partnerships, Minister Chee was on hand to witness the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and DNV, which continues our fruitful collaboration on decarbonisation and digital innovation in the maritime industry.

First drafted in 2014, the MOU covers critical emerging trends within the maritime industry and as one of the signatories to the updated document, I was able to reaffirm our continuing collaboration signifies DNV’s commitment to deliver key decarbonisation and digital transformation milestones within the industry.

The MOU renewal also addresses talent development and R&D to chart the pathways to net zero for international shipping, complementing the greenhouse gas (GHG) strategy of IMO.

Areas for future co-operation include catalysing joint industry projects on the pathways to net zero and leveraging digitalisation as a key enabler for energy efficiency.

Ammonia and biofuels 

Singapore’s leadership can be seen in the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonization (GCMD), formed 1 August 2021 with funding from MPA, as well as six founding partners including the DNV Foundation, to support decarbonisation of the maritime industry.

GCMD CEO Professor Lynn Loo provided an update on the ammonia bunkering safety study which is being carried out by DNV and our consortium partners, Surbana Jurong and the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA).  A key outcome of the study, said Professor Loo, will be the development of a curriculum with SMA to train seafarers in ammonia handling.

Collaboration is essential to deal with “wicked problems” besetting the industry and the planet, so we need to come up with near-term solutions, like addressing energy efficiency, and at the same time address medium- and long-term issues and opportunities.

In addition, the GCMD has undertaken a biofuels pilot involving 18 industry partners to develop a supply chain integrity assurance framework for drop-in green fuels. As an example of a medium-term project maximising industry collaboration, these green fuels will be used on shipping journeys between ports to validate performance and compliance; to shape national and international standards of biofuels bunkering, as well as lower the barriers for their wider adoption to GHG emissions.

It became obvious to me and other industry observers that the Singapore-Norway innovation pipeline is well underway. And, in the words of Penguin International general manager of group operations and sustainable developments, Captain Kevin Wong, “The future is now.” That is the reality and that is the attitude. To do now what we can do to fix the future.

Progress is being achieved on many fronts, but when I led a SIBCON panel of industry experts in October, we came to realise there’s still a lot of work to do before we have a viable business case for alternative maritime fuels, like ammonia and hydrogen.

Five key takeaways came out of this very fruitful discussion:

  1. There is a need for regulations and standards to be set for these fuels, so IMO must step up to the mark.
  2. Technology around the new fuels is available and being put to the test in good pilot programmes around the world.
  3. There is no real business case for ammonia and hydrogen without a carbon price or carbon tax being applied to fossil fuels.
  4. To have a level playing field for alternative fuels, all stakeholders must collaborate and develop effective partnerships.
  5. Safety is paramount, as while ammonia has been safely transported on vessels for a long time, it has not yet been applied as a bunkering fuel.

Multi-fuel solution 

Caution was expressed about concentrating on just one fuel. There must be a multi-fuel solution and vessels must be equipped accordingly.

Having the infrastructure in place to support a mix of fuels and making sure it is in the places where it is needed, was a strong point raised by our panel.

For shipowners and operators, one of the biggest challenges is the toxicity of ammonia. Therefore, much needs to be done to ensure safety measures, technology and regulations are in place, and DNV will play its vital role in this process.

Panellists also stressed the need to make sure crews are trained to handle ammonia at port and at sea.

There was general agreement that “the business case is not yet there” for the adoption of ammonia and hydrogen as bunkering fuels.

An effective workable carbon price/tax on fossil fuels would help provide “a level playing field” for a transition to alternative clean fuels, with one panellist calling for more incentives to drive the transition forward.

As the world’s biggest bunkering hub, Singapore is already playing an important leadership role, joining forces with ports and other stakeholders around the world to advance maritime decarbonisation. This is clear from good initiatives undertaken by Singapore to advance industry collaboration and partnerships for decarbonisation and for the adoption of alternative fuels.

A joint project between DNV and Pavilion Energy, for example, is advancing the digitalisation of LNG bunkering at the Port of Singapore. Through the collaboration, both companies developed a tailored digital bunkering platform, FuelBoss, to meet local requirements. As a fully digitalised end-to-end bunkering solution, FuelBoss will improve process integrity, data transparency and operational efficiency for customers. This includes digital checklists and electronic bunker delivery note developments.

“As the world’s leading and trusted bunkering hub, we welcome Pavilion Energy and DNV’s efforts to develop digital solutions for LNG bunkering to further increase the transparency and efficiency of bunkering operations and provide better assurance to LNG bunker buyers and suppliers in the Port of Singapore,” said MPA assistant chief executive (operations) Capt M Segar.

We have every reason to be optimistic, but never complacent, as the maritime industry accelerates its journey towards net zero.

But we must accept this is no “cruise to nowhere”. It must represent a carefully managed and orchestrated industrywide plan to make significant changes in the way we run and fuel our global businesses.

We will see much more innovation and collaboration kick off in 2023, and we are looking forward to being involved in impactful events during Singapore Maritime Week.

We are well and truly on the decarbonisation course, but we must quickly improve the efficiency of our ships to cut emissions and stoke the engines up with clean and green fuels to get to the port of net zero on time.

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Bunker Fuel

Antwerp-Bruges: LNG bunker sales increase by 55.3% on year in Q3 2023 

Port data showed 2,750 m3 of liquefied natural gas (LNG) being delivered as a marine fuel in Q3 2023, a 53.3% increase from 160 m3 in Q3 2022.

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The Port of Antwerp-Bruges recently published bunker fuel sales data for the third quarter (Q3) of 2023.

Deliveries of gas oil, ultra low sulphur fuel oil, very low sulphur fuel oil and high sulphur fuel oil in Q3 2023 (against on year) recorded respectively 312,048 metric tonnes (mt) (+111.5% from 144,823 mt), 109,972 mt (-54% from 239,050 mt), 609, 332 mt (-21.4% from 775,067 mt ), and 533,249 mt (+293.9% from 135,382). 

Port data showed 2,750 m3 of liquefied natural gas (LNG) being delivered as a marine fuel in Q3 2023, a 53.3% increase from 160 m3 in Q3 2022. 

Photo credit: Port of Antwerp-Bruges
Published: 24 October, 2023

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