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Alternative Fuels

Bio bunker fuels: A piece of the decarbonization puzzle

Incorporating biofuel bunkers to the shipping mix complements existing energy efficiency measures in shipping’s race to net-zero, says Cristina Saenz de Santa Maria, Regional Manager South East Asia, Pacific & India, Maritime at DNV.




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Opinion piece by Cristina Saenz de Santa Maria, Regional Manager South East Asia, Pacific & India, Maritime at DNV

How can the maritime industry globally move faster on its decarbonization journey?

Which ‘low hanging fruit’ can we draw on as we struggle to get started on the energy transition to cleaner and low carbon fuels?

Let’s consider, for a start, the important role which can be played by biofuels.

Biofuels – in the form of methane, methanol, or fuel oils – are seen as a convenient way for shipping companies to reduce their carbon emissions because of their ability to be used as a “drop-in” fuel.

As highlighted in DNV’s new whitepaper – “Biofuels in shipping” – biofuels can be mixed with similar versions of fossil fuels and used to power existing engines.

This make biofuels an extremely attractive decarbonization solution for shipowners as they negate the need for large-scale capital investments which are necessary for other decarbonization options, such as the retrofitting of engines to dual-fuel capability.

Our whitepaper acknowledges that the usage of biofuels in shipping has so far been extremely low. Before 2022, this was limited to a number of demonstrations, pilots and trials carried out onboard ships.

However, in 2022, this seemingly accelerated with reports of around 930,000 tonnes of blended biofuel being bunkered in Singapore and Rotterdam.

“Whilst this might seem like a large number, it still accounts for just 0.1% of total maritime fuel consumption of 280 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) per year,” states my colleague Eirik Ovrum, Principal Consultant in DNV Environment Advisory and co-author of the biofuels whitepaper.

Singapore tests biofuels for shipping

In Singapore, we know there’s been work done already to put biofuels to the test for shipping.

At one of our scheduled webinars in February this year, Anglo American’s Global Head of Shipping Peter Lye agreed and told webinar participants that his company was already working with its partners to explore the use of biofuels as a means to reduce carbon intensity in its ocean freight operations.

It had successfully trialled (in mid-2021) a biodiesel blend produced in Singapore by Alpha Biofuels from used cooking oil (UCO), to power one of its charter vessels during a voyage from Singapore to South Africa.

The Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) reported, also in February this year, that it had completed trialling two supply chains of biofuel blends sourced from different origins.

The supply chain trials, which involved 19 industry partners, entailed tracing biofuels from their production sites outside Singapore, to Singapore where the fuels were blended and bunkered. Lab testing of the fuels continued until they were consumed onboard.

Despite its nascent stage, Sanjay Kuttan, Chief Technology Officer at the GCMD said “there is a lot we can do right now that can make a big difference” during DNV’s ‘Live from Singapore’ webinar.

Ship operators can take on board low-carbon biofuels for bunkering without having to make any changes to fuel tanks or engines. He emphasised that we can also cut emissions immediately by introducing smart energy efficiency measures.

Practical considerations for biofuels onboard

We in DNV make a point of drawing attention in our whitepaper to the “practical considerations for use of biofuels onboard”.

Although biofuels are regarded as relatively easy and straightforward to use, they still have the potential to damage equipment onboard a vessel if not dealt with correctly.

Due to the lack of long-lasting trials, there is a shortage of experience with biodiesels and bioliquids, and their compatibility with existing onboard machinery.

Therefore, it is important to evaluate biofuels on a case-by-case basis to make sure that the fuel specification and quality is compatible with the intended applications onboard the vessel.

Biofuels are made by converting organic matter, also known as biomass, into a fuel product. Biomass absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere during growth, which gives biofuels the potential to be carbon-neutral, even though CO2 is emitted when combusting most biofuels.

The sustainability of biofuels is dependent on the feedstock. Biomass sourced from agricultural main products is usually referred to as conventional and not sustainable. Biomass from non-food or non-feed sources is termed advanced and has the potential to be regarded as sustainable, depending on the criteria.

DNV biofuel

Decarbonizing shipping through biofuels

DNV’s whitepaper assesses the current and future global biofuel production capacity by drawing on its own database of biofuel plants currently in operation, as well as visible planned biofuel production projects. The database identifies around 5,000 biofuel production facilities worldwide and predicts how biofuel production is expected to develop through to 2050.

According to the paper, global production of advanced biofuels stands at 11 Mtoe per annum in 2023. A significant number of projects involving production from advanced biomass sources are expected to come on-stream between now and 2026, bringing total sustainable biofuel production levels up to 23 Mtoe per annum.

Whilst this represents strong growth, it still falls short of the volume of biofuels that shipping would need in order to make a big impact on decarbonization efforts.

We must ask how much of the biofuel supply can shipping obtain?

If shipping was to decarbonize fully by 2050 primarily using biofuels, in combination with energy efficiency measures, 250 Mtoe per annum of biofuels would be required.

Our whitepaper estimates that the global sustainable and economical supply of biofuels could reach 500–1,300 Mtoe per year by 2050, which means that shipping would need between 20% and 50% of this supply if it was to decarbonize primarily using biofuels.

Total global energy demand today is around 10,500 Mtoe per year and shipping accounts for around 3% of this. It is, therefore, unlikely that shipping will be able to obtain such a high share of biofuels.

Shipping is considered a hard-to-abate sector and there are many in the industry who feel like it should be prioritized for biofuel supply over other sectors like road transport, due to the difficulties in, for example, electrifying the maritime fleet.

Fierce competition in the biofuels marketplace

Nonetheless, competition for supply will be fierce, particularly from sectors like aviation and road transport, which have already established a foothold in the biofuels market.

A case in point is Singapore’s concurrent focus on sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) as it is a major airline hub, as much as it is one of the world’s biggest ports for shipping.

In May this year, the Finnish company Neste announced that its Singapore refinery expansion would double its total production capacity to 2.6 million tons annually of which up to one million tons can be sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

The DNV whitepaper concludes that it is likely that biofuels will play an important role in shipping over the coming decades. However, limits to production capacity and competition from a range of other sectors mean that shipping cannot rely on biofuels as the only solution to reaching its decarbonization targets.

The maritime industry will, therefore, have to continue exploring other options to reach net zero.

Like it or not, biofuels are not a magic bullet and shipping needs to be multi-faceted in the ways in which it addresses decarbonization.

This means combining biofuels with more energy efficiency measures as well as developing the infrastructure for other carbon-neutral fuels.


Photo credit: DNV
Published: 5 July, 2023

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TotalEnergies Marine Fuels renews ISCC EU certification for bio bunker fuel  

Firm’s operations teams in Singapore and Geneva successfully renewed its ISCC EU sustainability certification for the supply of biofuel bunkers, says Louise Tricoire, Vice President.





TotalEnergies Marine Fuels renews ISCC EU certification for bio bunker fuel

Louise Tricoire, Vice President of TotalEnergies Marine Fuels recently said the firm’s operations teams in Singapore and Geneva successfully renewed its International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC) EU sustainability certification for the supply of biofuel bunkers.

“This means that TotalEnergies Marine Fuels can continue sourcing and supplying marine biofuels in accordance with EU renewable energy regulations ensuring the highest sustainability standards,” she said in a social media. 

“It's the third year in a row that we have successfully renewed this certification, after a deep and comprehensive audit which showed zero non-conformity.”

She added marine biofuels have grown in demand among shipping companies that want to cut greenhouse gas emissions immediately. 

“TotalEnergies Marine Fuels offers marine biofuels commercially in Singapore and we are starting in Europe. This certification enables us to accompany our customers in their decarbonisation journey with the best standard solutions available today.”

Photo credit: TotalEnergies Marine Fuels
Published: 29 September, 2023

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Alternative Fuels

Seapath, Pilot LNG launch JV to develop dedicated LNG bunkering facility in US Gulf Coast

With operations beginning in early 2026, the construction of the new facility will provide bunker fuel for LNG-powered vessels in the greater Houston/ Galveston area of Texas.





Seapath, Pilot LNG launch JV to develop dedicated LNG bunkering facility in US Gulf Coast

Seapath, a maritime subsidiary of Libra Group, and Pilot LNG, LLC (Pilot), a leading Houston-based clean energy solutions company, on Thursday (28 September) announced that they have formed a joint venture (JV) to develop, construct, and operate the first liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkering facility in the U.S. Gulf Coast.

With operations beginning in early 2026, the construction of the new facility will provide bunker fuel for LNG-powered vessels in the greater Houston/ Galveston area of Texas.

The project, which will be developed with an initial investment of approximately USD 150 million, meets the needs of a vital global and U.S. trade corridor. According to the Greater Houston Partnership, the Greater Houston waterways generated over USD 906 billion in economic value to the U.S. in 2022. 

In addition, a 2023 U.S. Department of Transportation report recognised the Greater Houston area as the top US port by tonnage.

While LNG bunkering infrastructure has been developing overseas, U.S. infrastructure supporting its uptake has developed slower. Pilot and Seapath’s LNG bunkering facility will use their combined expertise to serve essential U.S. Gulf Coast port complexes, including servicing major cruise lines and container vessel operators.

Led by LNG industry veterans with extensive experience on the terminal and marine side, Pilot LNG is committed to delivering LNG to new and existing U.S. markets, including fuel/bunkering terminals and related infrastructure. This is the first in a series of strategic investments by Seapath and Pilot to create a network of LNG facilities in areas of unmet need in the U.S.

“Seapath is dedicated to investing across the marine infrastructure space and will provide strong financial backing to Pilot’s LNG bunker projects,” said Jonathan Cook, CEO of Pilot. 

“We look forward to working closely with Seapath to support the gradual decarbonization of the marine industry. We look forward to delivering a U.S. Gulf Coast facility in a timely manner based on the extensive development work already completed to meet the significant needs for LNG fuel, which also supports ongoing decarbonization across the industry.”

A U.S. company led by Merchant Mariners and former service members, Seapath was formed recognizing the need for critical investments in the U.S. maritime economy. The company plans to continue investing in innovative projects within maritime connectivity, industrial technologies, port real estate, and Jones Act vessels.

“The infrastructure under development will provide LNG to a growing market seeking cleaner marine fuel, particularly as customers look for economical ways to comply with tightening emissions regulations, including regulations set by the IMO in 2020,” said Seapath CEO Greg Otto.  

“We are pleased to be working with a first-class team in Pilot LNG and with some of the leading ports in the United States to bring this critical LNG bunkering infrastructure to the Gulf Coast region where there is high demand for it. Thanks to our valuable partnership with Pilot, we look forward to developing more of these much-needed facilities in ports across the United States.”

Seapath is one of 30 operational entities of Libra Group, a privately owned business group whose subsidiaries own and operate assets in nearly 60 countries with six business sectors, including maritime and renewable energy. The Group’s three maritime subsidiaries include Lomar Shipping, a global shipping company with a fleet of more than 40 vessels, and Americraft Marine, which owns and operates a Jones Act Shipyard in Palatka, Florida. Significantly, the shipyard is among the few in the U.S. to construct crew transfer vessels to service the growing offshore-wind industry and traditional inland-marine assets such as tugboats and barges.

“Libra Group is committed to advancing innovation across our sectors, from maritime to aerospace, to renewable energy and more. As a global organization, we will harness insights from across our network to bolster the uptake of more sustainable technologies to advance our sectors while identifying potential applications across our other sectors,” said Manos Kouligkas, CEO of Libra Group.

“Adoption of more sustainable fuels is critical to future-proofing our industries against a rapidly changing ecosystem. We will continue to support the transition to greener energy solutions, and we look forward to following Seapath’s work to evolve the U.S. maritime industrial sector.”

Pilot and Seapath will continue with all front-end engineering and design development for their projects in the third and fourth quarters of 2023 to file applications with the necessary federal and state agencies to permit, site, construct and operate the small-scale LNG terminal for marine fuel. Pilot and Seapath anticipate announcing details of their project investment by the second half of 2024.

Photo credit: Libra Group
Published: 29 September, 2023

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Bureau Veritas on biofuels: The transitional bunker fuel of today? 

BV published an article stating that biofuels are a promising turnkey transitional fuel but outlined practical and technical issues that shipping companies should consider.





Bureau Veritas on biofuels: The transitional bunker fuel of today?

Classification society Bureau Veritas on Thursday (28 September) published an article stating that biofuels is a promising turnkey transitional bunker fuel but outlined practical and technical issues that shipping companies should consider: 

The race is on to transition to low-carbon alternative fuels and biofuels are gaining momentum. But what are they? Biofuels are gaseous or liquid fuels produced from biomass – organic matter of biological and non-fossil origin. Easily adaptable to existing vessels, biofuels are a promising turnkey transitional fuel. Let’s dive deeper to examine this promise.


Biofuels can be broadly categorized into three generations, some of which are ready for use in shipping, and others still maturing:

  • First generation, or conventional biofuels, are generated using agricultural crops, vegetable oil or food waste. These are the most commonly used biofuels worldwide.
  • Second generation, or advanced biofuels, are produced from- non-food biomass feedstocks like residual feedstocks from forestry or crops. They could have fewer negative environmental impacts relating to land use and food production.
  • Third generation biofuels are a future generation of biofuels currently needing further development, produced from algae and microbes.

Currently, first-generation biofuels are the most widely available. However, their scalability is constrained by the origin of their feedstock, which is food-purposed crops and thus entails direct and indirect land-use changes.

Second-generation biofuels, produced from non-food feedstocks such as forest biomass and agricultural crops, are free of some constraints associated with first-generation biofuels. Their role in decarbonizing shipping will likely be crucial. However, it will require a sharp uptake in supply, which inherently requires significant investments.


Yes, they absolutely do! The way a biofuel is produced and the feedstock used are key when analyzing a biofuel’s lifecycle GHG emissions. They therefore have an impact on determining whether they can be considered as low-carbon fuel. There is currently no globally accepted standard or certification in place to ensure the end-to-end sustainable production of biofuels. First generation biofuels, for example, are carbon neutral on paper. But, this claim becomes far more complex from a well-to-wake perspective and when considering more holistic sustainability criteria.

What other kind of ramifications might biofuel production entail? For one, the land needed for production is already in high demand to expand croplands around the world. This puts first-generation biofuel production and food markets in competition with each other – not an easy battle to win. From an ethical standpoint, most would prioritize meeting global food demand over fueling ships.


When it comes to biofuel use there are two broad categories of considerations for shipping companies: the practical and the technical.


Thus far, as with many fuels, it is difficult to predict the exact future prices of biofuels. Blending biofuels with fossil fuels can reduce the overall energy content which means more fuel is needed to maintain performance. Besides, maintenance may have to be adapted in cooperation with OEMs depending on which biofuels and blends are used. The latter can lead to additional OPEX costs that shipping companies will need to shoulder.

Another crucial factor is availability. At current production rates biofuels are unlikely to be able to meet a large proportion of global maritime demand. Competition with other sectors, such as land-based transportation, may compound concerns surrounding availability. This factor is not, however, specific to biofuels – availability remains a challenge for several other potential marine fuels.

The practical disadvantage of biofuels is a question of supply – particularly for the more ecological second- and third-generations. Theoretically, these later second generation biofuels could become a flexible and sustainable refueling option. Their required feedstocks are available worldwide, and port infrastructure should not require significant adaptations to accommodate them. Practically, however, they need to be produced at much greater scale.


One of the major advantages of biofuels is the maturity of compatible engines. Vessels typically require no modification to use biofuels, making them a “drop in” replacement for conventional marine fuels. This sets biofuels apart from the majority of alternative fuels – including hydrogen, ammonia and LNG – which require specific engines or fuel storage and supply systems.

Characteristically speaking, biofuels are similar to standard fuel oil. This means minimal investment would be needed to meet evolving regulations and ensure crew safety onboard.


The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is now developing guidelines for the life cycle GHG analysis of marine fuels, which is expected to be the cornerstone when considering the emissions reduction potential of marine biofuels.

Specific biofuel regulations may still be in the early stages, but ship operators are adapting their fleets now to comply with IMO emissions regulations. Biofuels may be part of the solution to reducing emissions and meeting compliance requirements. With a sustainable production pathway, biofuels promise significant carbon emissions reductions compared to standard fossil fuels.

Biofuels also appear to be in line with NOx (nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide) emission limits. The challenge, however, comes in proving compliance. This may require onboard emission testing or engine and fuel-specific NOx emissions validation testing. However, the IMO regulations now consider blends of 30% biofuel or less in the same way as traditional oil-based bunkers.


To help the industry prepare for the use of biofuels or biofuel blends, Bureau Veritas created its BIOFUEL READY notation. It provides a set of requirements and comprehensive guidelines for the necessary documentation and testing. Suitable for new and existing ships, BIOFUEL READY is one example of how we leverage our transversal expertise to support the maritime industry’s decarbonization journey and safely progress innovative solutions. This includes assessing NOx emissions, which remain at the forefront of current regulatory compliance.

Photo credit: Bureau Veritas
Published: 29 September, 2023

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