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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.

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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.

ARE LOW-CARBON BIOFUELS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE?

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.

DO BIOFUEL PRODUCTION PATHWAYS MATTER?

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.

WHAT SHIPPING COMPANIES NEED TO KNOW

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

ON THE PRACTICAL SIDE…

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.

AND THE TECHNICAL SIDE

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.

WHAT REGULATIONS ARE IN PLACE FOR BIOFUELS?

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.

BIOFUEL READY

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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Bunker Fuel

ENGINE on Fuel Switch Snapshot: LNG costlier than VLSFO

Singapore’s VLSFO price is cheaper than LNG; LNG approaches parity with VLSFO in Rotterdam; price gap between biofuel and LNG shrinks.

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ENGINE on Fuel Switch Snapshot: LNG costlier than VLSFO

Once a week, bunker intelligence platform ENGINE will publish a snapshot of alternative and conventional bunker fuel prices in the world’s two biggest bunkering hubs. The following is the latest snapshot:

27 May 2024

  • Singapore’s VLSFO price is cheaper than LNG
  • LNG approaches parity with VLSFO in Rotterdam
  • Price gap between biofuel and LNG shrinks

LNG bunker benchmarks in Rotterdam and Singapore continue to rise sharply.

With estimated EU Allowance (EUA) costs included in bunker fuel costs, Singapore's LNG bunker price has surged $34-37/mt in the past week after a $29-30/mt jump the week prior.

After adjusting the price for calorific contents to become VLSFO-equivalent, Singapore's LNG price has flipped to a premium of $29-36/mt over its VLSFO in the past week, from a $30-36 discount noted a week prior.

Rotterdam's fossil LNG bunker price has closed even further on VLSFO by $33-34/mt over the past week, making it only $20-33/mt cheaper than VLSFO now.

Biofuel price premium in Singapore over fossil LNG has dropped by another $61-62/mt to $75-81/mt in the past week. In Rotterdam, the bio-bunker premium over LNG has narrowed by $11/mt to $156-168/mt.

VLSFO

Rotterdam's VLSFO price has mostly followed Brent's downward movement over the past week. Rotterdam’s VLSFO benchmark has declined by $11-18/mt in the past week, depending on whether the estimated EUA costs are included.

Availability of VLSFO is normal in Rotterdam, with lead times of 3-5 days recommended to ensure full coverage from suppliers, a trader said.

Singapore’s VLSFO benchmark has also tracked Brent’s movement, falling $32/mt over the past week.

Lead times for VLSFO in Singapore have exhibited significant fluctuations recently. Most suppliers now recommend lead times of up to 10 days for this grade, while some can accommodate stems within five days.

Biofuels

Rotterdam’s B24-VLSFO HBE bunker price has inched $5/mt higher in the past week. When we add estimated EUA costs, the price has gained $8-10/mt, depending on whether we are looking at voyages between EU ports or between EU ports and non-EU ports.

A huge gain in the price of palm oil mill effluent methyl ester (POMEME) feedstock – qualified for Dutch HBE rebates – has pushed the price higher. PRIMA-assessed POMEME price in the ARA has jumped by $70/mt to $1,368/mt in the past week.

In contrast, Singapore’s B24-VLSFO UCOME bunker price has slumped by $25-28/mt, depending on whether the price is adjusted with estimated EUA costs.

The price has declined amid a $10/mt drop in UCOME FOB China, according to PRIMA Markets. Chinese biodiesel exports to the EU are being investigated by the European Commission for "unfairly traded biodiesel". The ongoing investigation has dented Chinese biodiesel inflows into European countries.

LNG  

Rotterdam and Singapore’s LNG bunker prices have seen significant upticks in the past week.

Rotterdam’s LNG bunker benchmark has climbed $16-22/mt higher, depending on whether estimated EU ETS costs are included in the cost of fuel. This increase has been driven by the underlying front-month NYMEX Dutch TTF Natural Gas benchmark, which has seen an uptick due to heavy maintenance activities at Norwegian gas facilities.

Singapore’s LNG bunker benchmark has risen by a staggering $34-37/mt in the past week. The movement is influenced by the upward trend in the underlying Japan/Korea Marker (JKM) gas benchmark and prevailing trends in the Asian LNG market.

Analysts at ANZ Bank noted that “the rally in global gas prices continued amid ongoing buying from importers.” Importers such as Japan and South Korea are restocking gas inventories ahead of the Northern Hemisphere summer, further driving demand.

By Konica Bhatt

 

Photo credit and source: ENGINE
Published: 28 May 2024

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Biofuel

Japan: NYK begins first long-term bio bunker fuel test run on VLCC

VLCC “Tenjun” received an initial supply of biofuel in Singapore and will continue to use biofuel bunker for three months to comprehensively verify the safe and stable procurement of biofuel for long-term use.

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Japan: NYK begins first long-term bio bunker fuel test run on VLCC

Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) on Monday (27 May) said it began a long-term biofuel test run on its very large crude oil tanker (VLCC) Tenjun on 2 May. 

The vessel received an initial supply of biofuel in Singapore and will continue to use biofuel for approximately three months to comprehensively verify the safe and stable procurement of biofuel for long-term use.

“NYK has conducted many short- and long-term safety trials of biofuel use on bulk carriers, car carriers, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) carriers, but this was the first time an NYK-operated VLCC has engaged in a long-term biofuel trial,” the firm said on its website.

Biofuels are made from organic resources (biomass) of biological origin, such as agricultural residues and waste cooking oil, and are considered to have virtually zero carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions when combusted.

“Since they can be used in heavy-oil-powered ship engines, which are common on large merchant ships, biofuels are considered a key means of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the transition period from heavy oil to zero-emission fuels,” NYK added.

Vessel Particulars

Length : 330.00 metres
Width : 60.00 metres
Gross tonnage: 159,927 tonnes
Deadweight tonnage: 302,108 tonnes
Year built: 2008
Shipbuilder: IHI Marine United Shipbuilding Corporation (Kure City, Hiroshima Prefecture)

 

Photo credit: NYK
Published: 27 May 2024

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Bunker Fuel

ScanOcean to supply B15-DMA bunker fuel for Lakeway Link RoRo service

Both will partner on the use of B15-DMA, a marine fuel with 15% renewable content, for Lakeway Link’s new RoRo service connecting Södertälje, Sweden, and Gdynia, Poland.

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Lakeway Link AB on Friday (24 May) announced a new partnership with Swedish supplier of marine fuels ScanOcean AB on the introduction of B15-DMA, a marine fuel with 15% renewable content, for Lakeway Link's new roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) service connecting Södertälje, Sweden, and Gdynia, Poland.

Under the agreement, ScanOcean AB will supply the B15-DMA fuel, meeting the stringent ISO 8217 compatibility standards and boasting a ISCC-EU certification. 

The fuel not only supports the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, as mandated by the EU ETS obligations, but also significantly improves the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII) and Clean Shipping Index (CSI) scores for vessels. The fuel is also compatible towards the upcoming FuelEU Maritime regulations.

The deliveries of B15-DMA will be made in Södertälje, Sweden, to the M/S Lakeway Express, thereby kickstarting the utilisation of this innovative fuel. This partnership underscores both companies’ commitment to environmental sustainability that goes beyond compliance.

Fredrik Hermansson, CEO of Lakeway Link AB, said: “Our decision to partner with ScanOcean AB and begin using B15-DMA fuel is a pivotal step in our journey towards reducing our environmental impact. This initiative not only aligns with our sustainability goals but also sets a new standard in the maritime industry for environmental responsibility.”

Jonatan Karlström, Managing Director of ScanOcean AB, said: “We are thrilled to partner with Lakeway Link AB as they embark on their new ro-ro service. This collaboration is not just a business milestone but a significant leap forward in our mission to provide sustainable fuel solutions. With our new product offerings, we are dedicated to leading the charge towards a greener maritime industry.”

 

Photo credit: Lakeway Link
Published: 27 May 2024

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