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Alternative Fuels

Bio-Content in Marine Fuel Helps Reduce Emissions – but will it leave you ‘all at sea’?

100% biodiesel can hold 15 to 25 times more water compared with 100% diesel fuel, according to Pierre Poitras, Technical Consultant at Conidia Bioscience.




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Pierre Poitras, Technical Consultant at Conidia Bioscience, looks at how the increased percentage of biofuels can raise the cost of fuel as well as leave it susceptible to microbes. The analysis is based on the white paper Protecting equipment from microbial contamination when changing fuel chemistry

To help meet environmental regulations and reduce the environmental impact of the shipping sector, increasing percentages of bio-components are being added to marine fuels. But what difference does this make to fuel husbandry and are there any risks to the marine operators? There are certainly some areas for concern and fuel management procedures may need to be adapted to avoid unnecessary maintenance costs or damage to engine systems.

To help meet environmental regulations and reduce the environmental impact of the shipping sector, increasing percentages of bio-components are being added to marine fuels. In 2017, ISO 8217 6th edition allowed additional Distillate FAME (DF) grades: DFA, DFZ and DFB with a maximum Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME) content of 7.0 v/v %, another potential facilitator of increased water content and microbial contamination. These are complemented with new biofuels, which are created using innovative refining processes, such as Hydro processing of Vegetable Oils (HVO) and the co-processing of waste product (oils, plastics) and other raw material to substitute conventional crude oil, which may have different trace contaminants. While these reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, their different chemistry can potentially pose additional risks to marine assets.

The increased threat comes in the form of an increased potential for microbial contamination. Dormant spores of microbes, including yeast, filamentous fungi and bacteria, are present in fuel and, when water and air are in the system, create an ideal breeding ground for them to multiply and grow. The bio-component (biodiesel) within marine fuels, generically referred to as Fatty Acid Methyl Ester (FAME), gives these fuels a greater affinity to retain water, exacerbating the risks of microbial contamination. Water will typically separate from fuel but the introduction of FAME into its chemical composition means it will retain water at greater concentrations. At the refinery, fuel contains <200 ppm water content but, once exposed to the elements, DF grades can contain over 500 ppm water. Typically, the greater the FAME content, the greater the potential for increased amount of emulsified water, which can reach up to 1500 ppm.

Indeed, 100% biodiesel can hold 15 to 25 times more water compared with 100% diesel fuel1. Water can find its way into fuel throughout the fuel supply chain. Anywhere where air is present, there is potential for moisture to condense – and there is plenty of opportunity in a marine environment! Water can be present in the fuel as free droplets, entrained water, or a separated layer of free water beneath the fuel. Combined with the increased organic content of biofuels for the microbes to feed on, the risk of contamination has increased significantly. Even if general maintenance procedures have prevented or controlled contamination in the past, ship owners and operators should consider taking additional steps to minimize the threat and protect their vessels.

Why is microbial contamination an issue?

Microbial contamination covers multiple types of organisms, the presence of which will vary according to individual site conditions, based on factors such as temperature and humidity. The microbes work together in communities to degrade fuel and affect fuelling equipment. They form biofilms, which are complex structures of sticky, slimy polymeric substances that provide a protective habitat for microbes growing within them. These biofilms can clump with any other floating cellular material to form microbial biomass clusters that can plug filters, screens or other small orifices within the fuel system. Furthermore, these biomass layers generate organic acids that corrode metal surfaces, causing damage to fuel tanks and other ancillary equipment. If left untreated, vessels are at risk of costly damage to systems, breakdowns while at sea, and being out of service for several days.

Protecting assets

As we look to further increase the percentage of FAME to reduce environmental impact of marine fuels, the risk of microbial contamination also increases. On top of this threat, advances in technology to produce more efficient combustion engines increase the engines’ susceptibility to the risks of microbial contamination. Recent engine advancement has introduced precise, higher internal pressure fuel nozzles, whose smaller orifices have a lower tolerance to sediments and particulate matter that might be generated by off-spec fuel. This ‘perfect storm’ in the advances to control GHG emissions requires better fuel management steps to ensure valuable equipment is not damaged and huge costs incurred.

It is good practice to remove as much water as possible from fuel supplies, but a sound testing regime will also help ensure contamination does not lead to corrosion or damage of systems. Understanding levels of contamination means maintenance actions, such as tank cleaning and adding biocide, can be tailored and optimized to avoid unnecessary costs.

Sampling to identify microbial contamination is either carried out in a laboratory or on site on board. The frequency of testing can be honed according to microbial test results, observed trends, and operational experience. The issues with sending samples to shore-based laboratories for testing derive from the fact that the microbes are living, dynamic organisms. This means that the microbial population can change while the sample is in transit and during time delays, and results may not be representative of the tank environment. Samples therefore need to be stored and transported under environmentally controlled conditions, which presents logistical issues and the time taken to get results may mean the ship has visited port and returned to sea before realizing there is a problem.

Rather than sending fuel samples to a laboratory, testing the fuel in situ, whether in port or at sea, provides a quick, easy and cost-effective alternative. Test kits based on antibodies, such as the FUELSTAT® test kit from Conidia Bioscience, are a proven method for identifying microbes with the ability to degrade fuel, and provide an accurate indication of contamination levels. These low-cost, single use test kits are simple to use, require minimal training, need no special handling, and can be readily integrated into day-to-day operations. They provide a result in a matter of minutes, which can be scanned into a mobile app for the purposes of logging and sharing results immediately from ship to shore. They offer an economical and quick way to determine levels of microbial contamination in fuel and enable fuel tank testing while at sea, and any required remediation work to be scheduled for when the ship returns to port.


We must reduce GHG emissions; increasing the percentage of FAME in marine fuels is a clear and easy ‘winner’ in the short term while we wait for the development of technology and infrastructure to support zero carbon alternatives. The chemical change in the composition of biofuels, however, means we need to recognize the increased risk of microbial contamination and adapt routine operations to ensure advanced corrosion and damage to system components does not threaten vessel availability and add significant costs to the bottom line.

Although ship owners may have previously had minimal issues with microbial contamination, fuel management procedures should be updated to protect marine vessels. Contamination can occur throughout the fuel supply chain and simple, onboard testing provides instant results, facilitates optimization of maintenance procedures, and may save thousands in repairs or lost operating time.

The above analysis is based on the White Paper Protecting equipment from microbial contamination when changing fuel chemistry

1 Moisture Absorption in Biodiesel and its Petro-Diesel Blends - Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan


Photo credit: Mario La Pergola on Unsplash
Published: 21 March, 2022

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Singapore: EPS orders its first wind-assisted propulsion system for tanker

Firm signed a contract for its first ever wind-assisted propulsion system, partnering with bound4blue to install three 22-metre eSAILs® onboard “Pacific Sentinel”.





Singapore: EPS orders its first wind-assisted propulsion system for tanker

Singapore-based Eastern Pacific Shipping (EPS) on Thursday (22 February) said it signed a contract for its first ever wind-assisted propulsion system, partnering with bound4blue to install three 22-metre eSAILs® onboard the Pacific Sentinel

The turnkey ‘suction sail’ technology, which drags air across an aerodynamic surface to generate exceptional propulsive efficiency, will be fitted later this year, helping the 183-metre, 50,000 DWT oil and chemical tanker reduce overall energy consumption by approximately 10%, depending on vessel routing.

Suitable for both newbuilds and retrofit projects, the system delivers energy efficiency and cost savings for a broad range of vessels, regardless of their size and age.

Singapore: EPS orders its first wind-assisted propulsion system for tanker

José Miguel Bermudez, CEO and co-founder at bound4blue, said: “Signing an agreement with an industry player of the scale and reputation of EPS not only highlights the growing recognition of wind-assisted propulsion as a vital solution for maximising both environmental and commercial benefits, but also underscores the confidence industry leaders have in our proven technology.”

“It’s exciting to secure our first contract in Singapore, particularly with EPS, a company known for both its business success and its environmental commitment.”

“We see the company as a role model for shipping in that respect. As such this is a milestone development, one that we hope will pave the way for future installations across EPS’ fleet, further solidifying our presence in the region.”

Cyril Ducau, Chief Executive Officer at EPS, said: “EPS is committed to exploring and implementing innovative solutions that improve energy efficiency and reduce emissions across our fleet.” 

“Over the past six years, our investments in projects including dual fuel vessels, carbon capture, biofuels, voyage optimisation technology and more have allowed us to reduce our emissions intensity by 30% and achieve an Annual Efficiency Ratio (AER) of 3.6 CO2g/dwt-mile in 2023, outperforming our emission intensity targets ahead of schedule. The addition of the bound4blue groundbreaking wind assisted propulsion will enhance our efforts on this path to decarbonise.”

“With this project, we are confident that the emission reductions gained through eSAILs® on Pacific Sentinel will help us better evaluate the GHG reduction potential of wind assisted propulsion on our fleet in the long run.”

Pacific Sentinel will achieve a ‘wind assisted’ notation from class society ABS once the eSAILs® are installed. 


Photo credit: Eastern Pacific Shipping
Published: 23 February, 2024

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LNG Bunkering

Galveston LNG Bunker Port joins SEA-LNG coalition

SEA-LNG said move will further enhance its LNG supply infrastructure expertise and global reach, while giving GLBP access to the latest LNG pathway research and networking opportunities.





Galveston LNG Bunker Port joins SEA-LNG coalition

Galveston LNG Bunker Port (GLBP), a joint-venture between Seapath Group, one of the maritime subsidiaries of the Libra Group, and Pilot LNG, LLC (Pilot), a Houston-based clean energy solutions company, has joined SEA-LNG, according to the latter on Wednesday (21 February). 

SEA-LNG said the move will further enhance its LNG supply infrastructure expertise and global reach, while giving GLBP access to the latest LNG pathway research and networking opportunities.

GLBP was announced in September 2023 and will develop, construct and operate the US Gulf Coast’s first dedicated facility supporting the fuelling of LNG-powered vessels, expected to be operational late-2026.

The shore-based LNG liquefaction facility will be located on Shoal Point in Texas City, part of the greater Houston-Galveston port complex, one of the busiest ports in the USA. This is a strategic location for cruise ship LNG bunkering in US waters, as well as for international ship-to-ship bunkering and cool-down services. GLBP will offer cost-effective turn-key LNG supply solutions to meet growing demand for the cleaner fuel in the USA and Gulf of Mexico.

Jonathan Cook, Pilot CEO, said: “With an initial investment of approximately $180 million, our LNG bunkering facility will supply a vital global and U.S. trade corridor with cleaner marine fuel. We recognise that SEA-LNG is a leading partner and a key piece of the LNG bunkering sector, and will give us access to insights and expertise across the entire LNG supply chain.

“LNG supports environmental goals and human health by offering ship operators immediate reductions in CO2 emissions and virtually eliminating harmful local emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter.”

President of Seapath, Joshua Lubarsky, said: “We are very pleased to be supporting the decarbonization of the maritime industry through strategic, and much needed, investments into the supply of alternative fuels.  We are also happy to be a part of SEA-LNG which has done a wonderful job in advocating for advancements in technology in this vital sector.”

Chairman of SEA-LNG Peter Keller, said: “We’re proud to welcome another leading LNG supplier to the coalition and are looking forward to a mutually beneficial relationship. With every investment in supply infrastructure in the US and worldwide, the LNG pathway’s head start increases. Global availability, alongside bio-LNG and e-LNG development, makes LNG the practical and realistic route to maritime decarbonisation.

“All alternative fuels exist on a pathway from grey, fossil-based fuels to green, bio or renewable fuels. Green fuels represent a scarce resource and many have scalability issues, so we must start our net-zero journey today with grey fuels. LNG is the only grey fuel that reduces greenhouse gas emissions, well-to-wake, so you need less green fuel than alternatives to improve emissions performance.”


Photo credit: SEA-LNG
Published: 23 February, 2024

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VARO and Orim Energy to supply bio bunker fuels in ARA region

VARO will source, produce and blend various waste and advanced bio feedstocks to high quality bunker fuel specs; Orim will source fuel and gas oils for blending and deliver final biofuel blends to vessels.





VARO and Orim Energy to supply bio bunker fuels in ARA region

VARO Energy (VARO) on Wednesday (21 February) said it is partnering with Orim Energy (Orim) to provide shipping customers in the Port of Rotterdam – and wider Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) region - with biofuels. 

The agreement supports the decarbonisation of maritime transportation and inland shipping in Northern Europe. It also contributes to the wider targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to reduce the total annual GHG emissions from shipping by at least 20% by 2030 and at least 70% by 2050, compared with 2008 levels.

Current demand for Fuel Oil in ARA , Europe’s largest bunkering hub, is approximately 14 million tonnes per year. Supported by new EU regulations, the market for B30, a blend of 70% Fuel Oil and 30% biofuels, is expected to grow rapidly to the end of the decade. As a result of this joint initiative, VARO and Orim will be well positioned to meet this increased demand and support the decarbonisation plans of their shipping customers.

VARO’s biofuels trading capabilities and growing biofuel manufacturing asset base will complement Orim’s extensive distribution, storage and bunkering capabilities in ARA. Under the agreement, VARO will source, produce and blend various waste and advanced bio feedstocks to high quality bunker specifications. Orim will source the fuel and gas oils for blending and deliver the final biofuel blends to customers’ vessels.

VARO has a long track record of providing biofuels for maritime logistics. Since 2018, the company has supplied the Port of Rotterdam with HVO100 (100% Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil “HVO”) for use with the Port’s service fleet. In 2023 VARO signed an agreement with Höegh Autoliners to supply the company with 100% advanced biofuels for its shipping fleet.

The partnership is aligned with VARO’s strategy to become the partner of choice for customers in the energy transition by providing them with the low-carbon energy solutions they need to decarbonise.

Dev Sanyal, CEO of VARO, said: “Meeting rising demand for blended biofuels is critical to achieving the EU and IMO’s decarbonisation targets for shipping. Our experience in biofuels, combined with Orim’s logistics and bunkering operations, will help meet this demand at Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port facility. I am delighted to be entering into a strategic partnership with Orim and to further build on VARO’s long-established presence in Rotterdam. This is another step in our journey to enable the decarbonisation of the maritime sector.

Edwin Coppens, Managing Director of Orim, said: “Upcoming EU and IMO regulations drive the need to scale up with biofuels and ensure quality assurance going forward. Partnering with VARO allows us to do just that, using each other’s strengths to optimize our blending expertise and network. We will benefit from VARO’s extensive experience with biofuels, which includes joint testing with leading ship engine suppliers. Together, we can increase our sourcing and supply capabilities, extending our reach and further strengthening our position in the ARA region.”


Photo credit: VARO Energy
Published: 23 February, 2024

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