Connect with us

Alternative Fuels

Dr. Nicholas Clague shares VPS’ experience with alternative bunker fuels

Recently appointed as the Head of Sustainable Fuels, Clague provides an insight on VPS’ experience of testing the latest alternative fuels that are in use aboard vessels operating around the world.





Dr. Nicholas Clague, who was recently appointed as the Head of Sustainable Fuels of marine fuels testing company VPS, provides an insight on the firm’s experience of testing the latest alternative fuels that are in use aboard vessels operating around the world:


It is well reported that 3% of global emissions are attributed to world shipping and the entire industry is now on a drive to reduce emissions to net zero close to, or by 2050. At the recent MEPC 80 conference the IMO introduced additional interim checkpoints of 20% global greenhouse gas emissions reductions compared to 2008 but striving for 30% by 2030 with a 70% (striving for 80%) reduction by 2040. On top of this the EU ETS scheme will be expanded in 2024 to include all vessels over 5000 GT transporting general cargo or passengers with the share of emissions subject to the ETS being increased from 40% in 2024 to 70% in 2025 and 100% in 2026. In addition, methane and nitrous oxide emissions will be added to the EU ETS from 2026. Offshore vessels will also be added to the scheme from 2027.

With all of these new requirements (and additional costs and complexity) for reporting emissions from vessels, operators and owners are now looking very closely at how to reduce their emissions. Some of this has been achieved from what can be done ‘today’ such as slow steaming, improving vessel design, air lubrication and reducing sulphur in fuels.

However, to meet the requirements of net -zero by 2050 and reduce the cost of paying for emissions the shipping industry is also looking at other means of decarbonisation including the use of digitalisation of onboard systems for optimal efficiency and advanced monitoring of stack/exhaust emissions. Although a lot has been done so far there is still a lot more to be done if shipping is to achieve net-zero by 2050.

One of the main ways to reduce emissions is not only to burn less fuel but to also look at alternative fuels that can help further reduce emissions and remove the need to burn fossil fuels. As an interim step some operators are looking at LNG as a fuel and installing dual fuel LNG engines on vessels.

Although LNG significantly reduces emissions – up to 23% - compared to VLSFO on a well to wake basis it is still a fossil fuel. LNG vessels also have the issue of methane slip and with methane being 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, other vessel operators are looking to other alternative fuels such as methanol, ammonia and bio-fuels, especially with methane emissions becoming part of the EU ETS in 2026. These fuels can provide additional emissions savings compared to conventional fuels and LNG, but also offer their own challenges.

This article provides an insight from the VPS perspective based on our experience of testing the latest alternative fuels that are in use today aboard vessels operating around the world.

VPS Experience with new Alternative Fuels

FAME (fatty acid methyl esters) or more commonly referred to as biodiesel, has been used within the road transportation sector for cars, vans and trucks for many years. The composition of FAME is dependent on the feedstocks used in the manufacturing process and can vary greatly between each batch, between each supplier and where it is purchased around the world. FAME has one big advantage in that it is a ‘drop-in’ replacement for traditional fuels and can be used at varying amounts up to 100%. For example, a B30 fuel will be a blend of 30% FAME and 70% conventional fuel.

Due to the changes in chemical structure between each FAME, its performance as a fuel can vary greatly too. Carbon chain length and degree of unsaturation can influence the cold flow properties, with the degree of unsaturation also influencing oxidation stability and oxygen content. The level of oxygen content has an influence on the energy content, which is already lower than for conventional marine fuels. As a result, VPS were able to develop a technique to fingerprint the FAME source which has proven to be a great addition to the testing used to support our customers. With the introduction of the EU ETS and with 

FAME having a zero CO2 emissions factor, being able to accurately measure FAME content in fuel will be an advantage to vessel owners and operators. Several test methods already exist for determining the level of FAME in biofuels (including ASTM D7371, ASTM D7963, EN14078 and EN14103) but all have their limitations. VPS have developed a new technique which has higher precision, repeatability and reproducibility over the whole range from B0 to B100, enabling vessel owners and operators to obtain the correct emissions allowances.

FAME, due to its partially oxidised nature compared to conventional hydrocarbon-based fuels is also susceptible to bacterial growth which can lead to sludge and increased acidity, which can then lead to other problems such as blocked filters and corrosion. Again, due to it partial oxidation and some of the esters in the fuel being unsaturated, FAME can have significantly reduced oxidation stability which can cause sludge, filter blocking, darkening, acidity increase, microbial growth and rancidity which will be noticed by a rancid odour.

All that said, FAME does provide an environmental benefit from a well to wake perspective and with careful management onboard should cause no issues in its use, especially in blends with conventional fuel. So far, many of the samples tested by VPS have been single samples for single vessels with an estimated in-use total of biofuel used so far in the region of 30-40KT/month (VPS estimation) which is just a small fraction of the monthly market volume for shipping fuels. Based on data from VPS PortStats, so far in in 2023 we have tested over 300 FAME or FAME- containing bunker samples, the most of which have been available in Europe (mainly Rotterdam), but also from the US and Asia (mainly Singapore). However, based on this testing so far, we are safe to assume that FAME containing fuels are on trial and there is high scrutiny on its performance in these trials as we would expect.

This is from both crew and technical level, where in extreme cases engine components are being inspected and merited/demerited after the trial, looking for any signs of issues. This is being done at great expense to the vessel operators. Further, the top management of ship owners and operators is involved with decarbonisation high on their agendas too. This naturally results in suppliers being cautious about what is being supplied with only top quality products being offered. Will this level of diligence be maintained if biofuels were to become a main marine fuel?

To support this, of the over 300 “bunker” samples tested in 2023, only 30 vessels (approx. 10%) took biofuel more than twice. Typically, from the stem sizes taken it appears the vessel will only have this fuel onboard for around 1 week before it is consumed, further suggesting FAME biofuels are currently on trial.

Probably the biggest factor holding back the adoption of FAME into marine fuel is the price which can be as much as twice the price of VLSFO but with the introduction of the EU ETS in 2024 this cost will be off-set by the savings obtained by using FAME to increase the zero CO2 emissions allowance.

We have also seen other sources of material being used as options for fuel. HVO or hydrogenated vegetable oils is derived from waste oils from cooking and is highly processed and hydrogenated to remove any unsaturation and oxygen containing molecules like esters. As such HVO is often referred to as renewable diesel and performs in a similar way to diesel. When comparing HVO with FAME we see higher energy content, good oxidation stability, superior cold-flow properties and little or no microbial growth. This is due to the fact the HVO is hydrogenated and any partial oxidation (as found with FAME) has been removed during the hydrogenation progress. Again, as with FAME, HVO has a higher price than tradition marine fuels of similar viscosity which could restrict its usage as a marine fuel.

Cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL) and tyre pyrolysis oil (TPO) have also been suggested as marine fuels either as a ‘B100’ or in blends. CNSL is highly acidic and contains very different molecules compared to FAME which are phenolic in nature. These phenolic molecules have many uses outside the marine industry but as a fuel they could be susceptible to polymerisation under the right conditions of heat and potential prolonged storage. However, in blends with traditional fuels CNSL could be suitable as a fuel but more testing is needed to confirm its suitability. TPO is a relatively new technology and further testing is needed to prove its suitability as a marine fuel.

One fuel that is gaining a lot of attention is methanol. Unlike other fuels, it is almost entirely made up of a single molecule. It is readily available and can be manufactured from environmentally accepted sources. It also contains no sulphur and so significantly improves SOx emissions to very low levels. NOx emissions can also be reduced by up to 80% compared to conventional marine fuels. As with other alternative fuels price is a consideration for methanol especially as it has a round 2/3 the energy density of traditional fuels. Methanol is also classed as dangerous goods and has a low flash point so increased safety measures are needed when handling and shipping methanol.

VPS were recently involved in the very first bunkering of methanol in Singapore both for Bunker Quantity surveys (BQS) and Fuel Quality Testing (FQT). Following the successful bunkering operation, the fuel samples were tested and were a close match with the fuel quality that was supplied to the ship from the bunker vessel via a shore tank. Currently there are no industry specifications for the use of methanol as a fuel, but these are under development. There is a specification from IMPCA (International Methanol Producers and Consumers Association) which is being used as the benchmark specification for methanol as a marine fuel as the industry gains experience. Subsequently, VPS were involved with the bunker surveying of the same vessel in Port Said and Rotterdam as it sailed to its final destination in Denmark. VPS also undertook the analysis of the methanol fuel on all 3 occasions.

Over the next few years the number of vessels being fuelled by methanol is due to increase significantly and several new plants for producing bio-methanol are planned or under construction in support of the marine industry. Currently the vessel order book as of August 2023 shows 161 vessels on order which is about 7.6% of all vessels on order. This is up from 95 vessels on order in July 2023.


The maritime industry is currently working to reduce emissions to meet the IMO target of net-zero on or around 2050. There have been lots of measures adopted over the last few years to improve fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. This has included slow steaming, vessel design, air lubrication etc. However, all of these methods still involve the use of fossil fuels. So, the next step is to start using alternative fuels with significantly reduced or even zero carbon footprints. This has started with many new builds and some retrofits on vessels with dual fuel engines allowing the use of alternative fuels such as methanol.

In the future we will also start to see other fuels being used and there is a lot of current research ongoing around the use of ammonia as a zero-carbon fuel and also some consideration around the use of nuclear energy to power vessels.

VPS are also leading the way with the testing of these new alternatives fuels but are also working with vessel owners and operators to maximise their efficiency via their Maress technology and then also continuous emissions monitoring through their unique Emsys system. This gives an overall picture of energy-in via the fuel, monitoring of energy use and then quantifying the emissions from the vessel. In effect this shows how and where all the energy from the fuel has been used on the vessel.

With the EU ETS expansion in 2024 and the need to reduce emissions in shipping, VPS are leading the way in the analysis of new alternative fuels to support our customers in assisting them in meeting their emission reduction targets whilst making sure these fuels are fit for purpose. Coupled with our new and innovative digital technologies for optimised vessel operations and continuous exhaust emissions monitoring, VPS are perfectly positioned to provide a wide range of maritime decarbonisation services to the global fleet.

Related: VPS appoints Dr. Nicholas Clague as new Head of Sustainable Fuels
Related: VPS completes quantity survey on Singapore’s first methanol bunkering op
RelatedSingapore bunkering sector enters milestone with first methanol marine refuelling op

Photo credit: VPS
Published: 12 September, 2023

Continue Reading


Bunker Holding scales up biofuel bunker availability to over 80 ports worldwide

Group is providing different types of lower carbon products as well as blends of biofuels and conventional marine fuels and can deliver those products to numerous ports.





RESIZED Bunker Holding office

Marine fuel supplier Bunker Holding on Tuesday (3 October) said it has now secured bio bunker fuel availability in more than 80 ports around the world, catering to last mile delivery. 

With the recent adoption of the FuelEU Maritime regulation, the entering into force of the IMO CII, and the inclusion of shipping in the EU ETS just around the corner, the Group said it is ready to help clients with the optimal solutions to reduce their GHG emissions.

Valerie Ahrens, Senior Director of New Fuels and Carbon Markets at Bunker Holding, said: “Bunker Holding is overcoming the challenges from the green transition simultaneously with our customers. It is affecting how we conduct business in a changing market, driven by the new IMO GHG strategy and new regulations such as IMO CII, EU ETS, and FuelEU maritime.”

“We are all in the same boat but as a leading marine fuel supplier with an extensive network and global reach, we are well positioned and equipped to help our clients. Much of our work has gone into building strong and reliable supplier relations, which are essential to ensuring we can connect reliable suppliers with the end-users of biofuel globally.”

Manja Ostertag, Head of Biofuels, who is coordinating the global efforts to develop the supply of biofuels in key regions and ports, said: “During the past months, we have been intensifying our efforts on ensuring biofuel availability at numerous ports and at a global scale. This puts the Group in a unique position as a marine fuel supplier. Providing a relevant and competitive value proposition including low-carbon fuels is a crucial part of our New Fuels strategy and key to succeed as a business, given the upcoming IMO and EU regulations.”

As part of this effort, Bunker Holding and its subsidiaries are focusing on the individual needs of its clients. As every segment and business in the marine sector is different and hence might have different needs, Bunker Holding, through its affiliates, aims to provide customised and compliant solutions. That means the Group is providing different types of lower carbon products as well as blends of biofuels and conventional fuels and can deliver those products not only to flow ports, such as ARA and Singapore, but also in numerous other ports.

During the past months, biofuels have been bunkered by the Group to different segments, reaching from cruise and ferry lines and container ships to offshore clients and even smaller businesses.

“When delivering lower carbon fuel solutions to our clients, it is crucial for us to work with reliable certified suppliers that have the same high principles on delivering product quality and sustainability as we have. Such reliable supply chains are indispensable in delivering relevant value to our clients,” says Manja Ostertag.

Bunker Holding is not only delivering lower carbon fuel solutions through its affiliates, such as Biofuels or LNG, but also prepares for the evolving offtake of alternative marine fuels, such as methanol and ammonia. In addition to that, the Group supports its clients in any topic around EU ETS, such as buying EUA’s (EU Allowances). As an advisor for the green energy transition, the Group wants to position itself as a one-stop-shop to its clients.

Photo credit: Bunker Holding
Published: 4 October, 2023

Continue Reading

Alternative Fuels

Cepsa begins supplying bio bunker fuel at Port of Barcelona

Firm said it has undertaken the largest supply of second-generation biofuels to date at the Port of Barcelona; firm supplied biodiesel to Hapag-Lloyd-operated boxship.





Cepsa begins supplying bio bunker fuel at Port of Barcelona

Spain’s energy for maritime transport supplier Cepsa on Monday (2 October) said it has undertaken the largest supply of second-generation biofuels to date at the Port of Barcelona. 

The operation, conducted on a 350-metre-long container vessel operated by Hapag-Lloyd in the Mediterranean, marks the energy company's inaugural venture in Barcelona and positions the Port of Barcelona as a key player in the decarbonisation of maritime transportation.

The supplied biodiesel contains a 24% sustainable component, which will prevent the emission of 2,860 tons of CO2, equivalent to planting 34,300 trees. This biofuel has been produced from used cooking oils.

Currently, the energy company can supply these sustainable fuels by barge in the Port of Barcelona and the area of the Strait of Gibraltar, and by tanker in all the ports in which it operates.

Samir Fernández, director of Marine Fuel Solutions at Cepsa, said: “Second-generation biofuels can be used in ships without the need for modifications to their engines, and they have a high potential for reducing CO2 emissions compared to conventional fossil fuels, achieving a reduction of up to 90%, which makes them an ideal immediate solution.”

“That’s why we want to make them available in all the ports in which we operate and lead their production in this decade to help our customers meet their own decarbonisation challenges.”

The company said it aspires to be the leading biofuel producer in Spain and Portugal by 2030, with a production capacity of 2.5 million tons annually, and green hydrogen, with 2 GW of electrolysis capacity.

Photo credit: Cepsa
Published: 4 October, 2023

Continue Reading

Alternative Fuels

KPI OceanConnect hosts alternative fuels & carbon markets forum in Greece

Forum brought together marine energy experts to talk on bio bunker fuels, their regulation and adoption and their important role in helping the shipping industry comply with emissions regulations.





KPI OceanConnect hosts alternative fuels & carbon markets forum in Greece

Global marine energy solutions provider KPI OceanConnect on Tuesday (3 October) said it held its Alternative Fuels & EU ETS Forum for clients in Greece on 27 September, where it brought together a line-up of marine energy experts to talk about biofuels, their regulation and adoption and their important role in helping the shipping industry comply with emissions regulations. 

For the evening’s seminar, speakers included KPI OceanConnect’s Jesper Sørensen, Global Head of Alternative Fuels & Carbon Markets, and from Bunker Holding, Valerie Ahrens, Senior Director of New Fuels & Carbon Markets and Manja Ostertag, Head of Biofuels. They were joined by Maria Tzigianni of Bureau Veritas’ VeriFuel. 

The speakers presented on the range of biofuel products available to the marine sector and how the market for these products is shaped by the oil market, feedstock sectors such as agriculture, and regulations at national, regional and global levels. Delegates also learnt about pilot projects that had tested the performance of biofuels and measured how they would help ship owners and operators to decarbonise. 

More than 100 guests attended an evening at Golf Privé in Glyfada, Athens, and were welcomed by Michalis Manassakis, Managing Director, KPI OceanConnect Athens. Attendees followed a very interesting seminar and were also able to learn more about KPI OceanConnect’s values and main activations through interactive touchscreen technology.

With EU ETS regulations coming into effect in the shipping industry on January 1st 2024, KPI OceanConnect’s guests also heard about the important role that voluntary and regulated carbon markets would have in helping the shipping industry to decarbonise. 

The shipping industry, vessel owners and operators in particular, face many important questions about decarbonisation, while ongoing innovation means the alternative fuels market is constantly moving.

In its role as a provider of marine fuels, the firm said it was important that KPI OceanConnect shares its knowledge and expertise with its clients and customers.

Michalis Manassakis, said: “It was a pleasure to host a frank and open discussion for so many of our friends in the Greek market and we are grateful to have had so many join us today. As the shipping sector tackles the decarbonisation challenge, it is important that we help our partners to understand the changes that are happening in the marine energy market. And that we work to build trust in the supply of products that will drive forward the energy transition in our sector.”

Photo credit: KPI OceanConnect
Published: 4 October, 2023

Continue Reading