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Alternative Fuels

Decarbonisation developments and challenges by Standard Club: examining emerging bunker fuels

Standard Club elaborates on methanol and ammonia as emerging marine fuels and discusses the benefits and challenges for each in this article.





The Standard Club on Thursday (9 January) said it has published an article elaborating the results of its 2022 Alternative Fuels survey to look one step further – to 2030 and 2050 – and examine the emerging fuels that may feature heavily in the shipping industry’s route to decarbonisation:

Examining emerging fuels

The changing backdrop only ramps up the pressure on shipping to continue its course towards decarbonisation. With the timescale to net-zero potentially set to move forward, shipowners and operators would need to act fast and look beyond the short and mid-term goals and look forward to long-term solutions.

Our 2022 Alternative Fuels survey revealed that methanol and ammonia are at the forefront of members’ thinking when it comes to meeting IMO-2050 targets. So, what benefits do each have to offer, and what challenges may shipowners and operators face, should they choose to adopt one of these emerging fuels?


Methanol (CH3OH) is one of the commonly shipped chemical commodities. It is produced from carbon, typically from natural gas and coal. However, carbon can also be sourced from a variety of renewable sources, including ‘biomass’, such as food crops, agricultural waste, forestry residue, used cooking oil and other waste products – supporting methanol’s green credentials.

From a regulatory aspect, the IMO interim guidelines for ships using methyl or ethyl alcohol as fuel (MSC.1/Circ.1621) along with the IGF Code for ships using low-flashpoint fuels provides detailed goal-based and prescriptive requirements for application of methanol as marine fuel.

Methanol has several benefits, including:

  • Liquid at ambient temperatures, so no need to heat or cool.
  • Relatively easier to store and handle than cryogenic fuels.
  • Possible to convert existing engines from conventional fuel to methanol.
  • Relatively minor modifications needed to existing storage and bunkering facilities.
  • Already widely traded, well-understood and readily available in some ports for bunkering.
  • Water-soluble and biodegradable, with a lower impact on the environment if a spill happens.
  • Comparatively more energy-dense than hydrogen and ammonia.
  • Clean burning fuel with low levels of sulphur oxide (SOx), nitrous oxide (NOx) and particulate matter.

However, it also presents a number of challenges:  

  • Production is still currently mainly via processing natural gas (grey methanol) or coal (brown methanol), limiting the reduction of CO2 emissions.
  • Only when methanol is produced using renewable sources like biomass, and if the power used to produce it comes from renewable energy, it is considered to be green methanol.
  • Lower energy density than conventional fuel oil.
  • Large fuel volume is almost 2.5 times fuel oil, so requires larger storage tanks and/or more frequent bunkering.
  • Low flash point of well below 60°C is a fire risk, requiring extra fire prevention measures when handled and stored.
  • Toxic if inhaled, ingested or handled.
  • Increased corrosion risks Apart from larger volume of fuel tanks, additional cofferdams will be needed to prevent any potential leak into machinery spaces.


Ammonia (NH3) is typically created by extracting hydrogen from hydrocarbon fuels and combining it with nitrogen extracted from liquified air. Under ambient conditions, it is a colourless gas with a characteristic pungent smell.

Essentially, ammonia is a carrier of hydrogen. However, compared to hydrogen, ammonia storage is more practical due to its energy density and liquefaction temperature.

It is currently produced from natural gas but there is potential for carbon capture to reduce the emission footprint (blue ammonia), or for production from renewable sources (green ammonia).

Benefits of ammonia include: 

  • Since ammonia doesn’t contain any molecular carbon, during its combustion there are no CO2 emissions.
  • ‘Green’ production, using green hydrogen and renewable power for the conversion process, is possible. However, this process may influence its cost competitiveness.
  • Currently produced in substantial volumes for the chemical industry and distributable using existing infrastructure.
  • Commonly transported as cargo, so issues around handling and carriage are already understood.
  • Compared to hydrogen or LNG, ammonia is relatively easier to handle in terms of temperature, as it is stored at around -33oC.
  • Low fire risk due to its relatively narrow flammability range, as compared to other fuels.
  • However, it also poses a variety of challenges, such as:
  • Its toxicity. Being extremely soluble, even at extremely low concentrations, ammonia can be absorbed by body fluids (sweat, tears, saliva) and may cause severe chemical burns. Therefore, using ammonia fuel will require additional safety systems.
  • Apart from toxicity, ammonia also poses enhanced corrosion risk of certain metals such as copper, brass and zinc and various alloys.
  • Although ammonia is commonly carried as a cargo, it is still in the early stages of development as a fuel the regulatory frameworks are still being worked out. The IGF Code currently does not provide prescriptive requirements to cover toxic fuels like ammonia.
  • Ammonia’s lower volumetric efficiency and energy density means much more storage capacity will be required on board. The additional space for fuel may require larger vessel sizes, decreased cargo space or more frequent bunkering.
  • Tanks will need to be designed for temperature and/or pressure control if ammonia is stored in a refrigerated condition, as ammonia continuously evaporates and generates boil-off gas due to heat gain, which increases pressure in tanks if not managed. This storage at low temperatures will require energy.
  • Ammonia burns much more slowly than other fuels and has higher autoignition temperature than conventional fuel oil. This means that sustaining combustion once it gets started is going to be more difficult with ammonia than with other fuels. It will require an initiator/ igniter (combustion promoter) to enhance the burn, and this may cause difficulties in increasing engine output.
  • While carbon-free, ammonia contains nitrogen, and burning it will result in nitrogen oxide (NOx) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions. GHG impact of N2O emissions is nearly 300x greater than CO2.

As we highlighted in our previous blogs, members will need to take some key factors into account, regardless of whether they opt for methanol, ammonia, or other potential alternative fuels.

Training personnel onboard and on shore will be critical, as will be continued close collaboration with partners and peers. The shipping industry has traditionally been reluctant to share information, while a lack of clarity and direction has caused some inertia.

To combat this, especially with increasingly stringent deadlines looming on the horizon, members must share innovations, insight, and advice for the benefit of all.


Photo credit: Shaah Shahidh on Unsplash
Published: 12 January, 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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