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Alternative Fuels

DNV: Decision and design support for future bunker fuel options for container ships

Container ships ordered today should be able to operate until the late 2040s provided that a viable propulsion system is chosen, highlights new DNV guidance.




DNV Alternative fuels for containerships

For shipowners ready to order new ships today, the tough question is what fuel to build for. Answering that question is actually not as difficult as some may think, says Jan-Olaf Probst, Business Director Container Ships at DNV.

While the ultimate carbon-free propulsion technology has yet to be determined, there are some fairly safe assumptions for decision makers to go by – for example that the future ship fuel landscape is going to be more diversified than in the past, i.e. that certain fuels will be predominant on specific routes and/or for specific ship types.

Furthermore, there is currently no alternative to combustion engines in sight for ocean-going vessels. The crucial question is which fuel technology is the safest investment decision for the lifetime of a vessel built in the mid-2020s.

New DNV alternative fuels guidance document

To provide decision support to owners, DNV has published a guidance document called Alternative fuels for containerships. The paper should be viewed as a “living document”, says Probst – it will be amended over time as new findings become available. The first edition provides some general information as well as an in-depth discussion of LNG; chapters on other alternative fuels will follow soon, starting with methanol. “Since DNV has no vested interest in any particular fuel solution, our advice is entirely neutral, based on scientific facts, sound industry experience and feasibility calculations only,” stresses Probst. “Our main goal is to support the maritime industry in meeting the decarbonization targets.”

Strong arguments for LNG

The reason DNV decided to begin its discussion of alternative fuels with LNG is simple, Probst says. “LNG is fully established as a ship fuel and embedded in a comprehensive regulatory framework, in particular the IGF Code; LNG technology and expertise is mature and has been around for a long time. Moreover, LNG is the most frequently transported gas worldwide; LNG is the first gaseous fuel to have received full regulatory approval; there is proven know-how for building, bunkering and operating LNG-powered ships; and the bunkering infrastructure has grown so fast that nearly all major seaports can now provide refuelling opportunities.” LNG bunkering vessels can be deployed practically anywhere, and bunkering does not necessarily have to occur in port.

Possible fuel blends for LNG

Governments and energy companies around the world are driving the development of massive green hydrogen production capacity using renewable energy and hydrolysis. They plan to use biohydrogen and CO2 captured from industrial combustion processes to produce synthetic methane, the main component of natural gas. “Once sufficient quantities of ‘green’ methane are available, it can be blended with fossil LNG or fully replace LNG to achieve the required level of CO2 neutrality,” Probst points out. “No infrastructure or on-board modifications will be necessary. In other words, LNG is currently the most realistic and low-risk alternative fuel for newbuilds, especially for deep-sea shipping.”

Detailed technical decision support

The container-shipping segment has been showing the strongest interest in alternative fuels. A growing number of large container vessels are equipped with dual-fuel engines and either run on LNG or are LNG-ready. “The DNV alternative fuels document thoroughly discusses all aspects of building LNG-ready ships, including considerations such as different tank types and tank arrangement options and their pros and cons. It provides solid, well-founded, unbiased decision support,” says Probst.

Of course, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution to decarbonization; the topic has to be evaluated individually for each ship type and operating pattern, Probst cautions. A number of uncertainties regarding future fuel prices and availability remain for the time being; it is up to the individual owner to draw the final conclusions for the best way to proceed based on the facts available today. “Based on DNV’s analyses, it makes sense to build ships with propulsion systems that leave several future options open, so whatever conversion or retrofitting decision has to be made in ten or more years’ time, the financial consequences will be manageable,” says Probst.

Extra costs become less significant

Probst emphasizes that it is time for the industry to stop using HFO as a baseline fuel – whether in terms of fuel costs, the simplicity of on-board fuel handling systems or the distances that can be travelled without bunkering. These operating conditions are unsustainable, and the industry is well advised to look ahead and accept that the fuel future will be more complex – but it will be so for everybody.

“Building a ship for alternative fuels is definitely more costly than building a conventional vessel,” Probst contends. “However, considering the extra costs and space requirements of a scrubber and SCR system in an HFO-fuelled vessel, the extra costs for LNG propulsion appear much less significant. Once an LNG-powered vessel reaches the break-even point after five to eight years of operation, its operating cost is actually lower than that of a conventionally powered vessel. Provided that plans to introduce a CO2 taxation system go ahead, which appears likely, the cost difference will shrink even further and the break-even point will be reached faster as well.”

T3 Con 371 approach to pre design investigation tcm71 215205

Green projects attract charterers and improve access to financing

As a low-carbon technology that can eventually become carbon-neutral, LNG propulsion makes a newbuilding project much more attractive to financiers and charterers, the cargo market and, ultimately, the general public. What is more, combining a low-carbon project with an environmentally friendly financing scheme gives projects a compelling “green” character. Several newbuilding orders for larger container vessels running on LNG are already being financed as environmentally friendly projects via a “syndicated green loan” conforming to the Loan Market Association’s principles. “This kind of project is sure to set a new benchmark and will be the new normal,” says Probst.

T1 Con 371 LNG fuelled fleet tcm71 215203

Actionable facts for equipment design

The Alternative Fuels document also provides valuable input for key decisions about the on-board energy concept. “Every machinery concept comes with specific, calculable emission levels,” explains DNV expert Jan-Olaf Probst. “For example, a high-pressure main engine has only negligible methane slip but cannot burn boil-off gas. Type C tanks can handle overpressure, while membrane tanks cannot, which can be an issue during a longer stay in port.” All these considerations are discussed thoroughly in the DNV document and presented in a way that helps decision makers arrive at the most appropriate solution for the ship they want to build.

Loss of container slots is negligible

“We frequently hear the argument that valuable container slots will be lost when LNG tanks must be installed,” Probst mentions. “But the actual number of slots sacrificed is minimal on a modern large container ship.” It is advisable to position the LNG tanks below the deckhouse in the case of a twin-island design, he points out, and to optimize the shape of the tank to account for the risk of sloshing. “Opting for Type B or C tanks instead eliminates this issue. However, there is no solution that has only positive aspects,” he says. “It is also important to fine-tune the engine, tank and fuel-handling arrangements to create an efficient and coherent overall system, and to discuss all these aspects in depth with the yard so considerations of economy on the shipbuilder’s side won’t compromise the operational fitness and profitability of the resulting ship.”

Certification requirements and bunkering considerations

Designers of LNG container vessels should be aware of the regulatory restrictions surrounding bunkering. “It makes sense to arrange the bunkering equipment in a section of the ship where the bunkering process has the lowest possible impact on efficient loading and discharging,” says Probst. Furthermore, the crew of an LNG-powered vessel must undergo specific training, and the responsible persons for bunkering must obtain a special certificate. “All this can be taken care of prior to delivery, and a comprehensive risk assessment should be a standard part of the planning process for any newbuild,” he emphasizes.

LNG is available today and is easier to implement than what is commonly believed. It opens up a fuel perspective for the entire lifetime of a vessel built during this decade, including multiple options to eventually switch over to eco fuels to ensure compliance with emission regulations far into the future. DNV will continuously update its Alternative fuels for containerships paper and incorporate lessons learned. The document thus provides owners with solid, state-of-the-art knowledge as a basis for planning the next generation of containerships and other vessels.

Note: Manifold Times readers are able to download DNV’s Alternative fuels for containerships report from the link here.


Photo credit and source: DNV
Published: 20 January, 2022

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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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