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ENGINE: Q&A on biofuel bunkering with FincoEnergies

ENGINE spoke to FincoEnergies commercial director Johannes Schurmann to explore some of the more pressing questions and challenges around bio bunker fuels for bunkering.




A GoodFuels barge delivering a marine biofuel stem to Eagle Bulk’s bulk carrier Sydney Eagle during its call in the Dutch port of Terneuzen in in December 2021. GoodFuels
A GoodFuels barge delivering a marine biofuel stem to Eagle Bulk’s bulk carrier Sydney Eagle during its call in the Dutch port of Terneuzen in in December 2021. GoodFuels
  • The unexpected benefit from tricky biofuel tracers
  • New document could unbreak the chain of sustainability
  • Triple-stacked regulations and rebates to spur fresh biofuel demand
  • Shying away from unfamiliar bio price indexes can be risky

Marine biofuel specialist FincoEnergies has been in the ARA market for several years and established itself as perhaps the world’s biggest supplier of biofuel blends to ships.

Countless shipping firms have grabbed news headlines through trialling GoodFuels’ biofuels supplied by FincoEnergies to their ships. Various feedstocks have been tried and tested, with differences in performances and greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potentials recorded.

ENGINE spoke to FincoEnergies commercial director Johannes Schurmann to explore some of the more pressing questions and challenges around biofuels for bunkering. Have there been a lot of teething issues so far, where are we now, and what will a more GHG-regulated marine fuel future look like?

The answers below are highlights from the conversation. Click here to download the full interview or email Johannes Schurmann or Erik Hoffmann.

Erik Hoffmann (EH): We are seeing a wide range of price levels from various biofuel bunker suppliers in the Netherlands. These are given either for fuels based on feedstocks such as cashew nut shell liquid (CNSL), palm oil mill effluent (POME) or used cooking oil (UCO), which have different properties. Are there major differences in the performances of these fuels?

Johannes Schurmann (JS): If you look at POME and UCO, those are indeed different feedstocks that can have different properties. But it’s not a given that they have different properties. POME is of course a waste product from the palm oil industry, but UCO could also be a waste product from palm oil.

We have quite some clients that want solely used cooking oil methyl ester (UCOME), which is biodiesel made from UCO, because they believe they have engine acceptance for UCOME. But in the end, it's impossible to prove that physical UCO ended up in the biodiesel. Only if you control the entire supply chain you could say ok, the physical UCO ended up in the biodiesel.

It’s very hard to base the quality of the biodiesel on the original feedstock if we are working with waste-based products.

CNSL is a totally different ball game. It's a fuel that we don’t have much data about. We know that it has been used for some years in fuel oil blends. Some shipping companies are testing it, but there are also some nasty stories about all kinds of problems that occur with this product.

If you look at the composition of CNSL, it's composed of mainly carbonyls and anacardic acids, and those are different from the fatty acids that we are well known in biodiesels.

It could be an interesting product for the future because there are quite some volumes available. It's much cheaper than the biodiesels that we see today, but from a technical side, there are still quite some challenges that we need to overcome. So to just start using it because it fits in the ISO 8217 specification, that is too easily said.

EH: POME should not be confused with virgin palm oil, but how can a shipowner know that a POME-based biofuel is actually POME and not something else?

JS: We have been looking at POME for a while. In the Netherlands we have worked with this Dutch HBE [hernieuwbare brandstofeenheden] system, that does allow certain feedstocks to be used for international shipping if they are eligible for those HBEs, those bio tickets. And 2-3 years ago, they narrowed down the feedstock list which pushed us towards POME.

We didn't use it before because we were scared of this “palm” word in the feedstock, and if you can use UCO or tallow, why look at POME? Due to the legislation we had to look at POME.

What we did was first looking at where is this POME coming from? It’s mainly coming from Southeast Asia – Malaysia for example, Indonesia as well. To prove that the POME is really a waste product, we need to rely fully on the ISCC [International Sustainability & Carbon Certification]. The ISCC is certifying basically all the parties in the chain, including the ones producing POME.

And when the auditors visit sites that are producing POME, they are checking whether those sites are actually increasing or decreasing the amount of POME that they produce on a yearly basis. They say you cannot produce more than you did in previous years. Those auditors are really looking to make sure that you are not purposely producing POME. We think that this is a good mechanism.

A better way to check that they're not purposely producing POME is to see whether they even have a financial incentive to produce POME. And what we have done over the past years is that we have checked the POME price, so the raw feedstock, compared to palm oil.

What you see is that most of the time, not always but most of the time, the price of palm oil is higher than the price of POME. If the price of palm oil is higher than the price of POME, then for the producers of POME, there is no incentive to optimise the waste products rather than their premium product, which is palm oil.

EH: You have been looking into various ways of tracking feedstocks…Are either physical and blockchain tracers being used to guarantee that a biofuel’s origin and supply chain is what it says on the Proof of Sustainability (PoS)?

JS: Setting up a chain where a lot of mass balancing is done on paper, and setting up a chain with a physical tracer in there is extremely hard because you need to put tracers in all the big pools of feedstocks. You need to be able to track them to the vessel with a bunker sample for example, including what the dilution is of each tracer that you put in the original feedstocks.

Then you need to link those together - the tracers you find in the bunker sample and the tracers you've put in the original feedstock. In reality, we see that it is insanely hard to organise that. And it is quite costly because you need to physically put tracers in all those feedstocks. Because they're coming from all over the world, it's quite costly to organise that. From a physical side, we are not yet convinced that such a system would work.

GoodFuels tested isotopic tracers as a 'unique fingerprint' in a biofuel stem delivered to a Norden-owned tanker in 2022. GoodFuels

GoodFuels tested isotopic tracers as a 'unique fingerprint' in a biofuel stem delivered to a Norden-owned tanker in 2022. GoodFuels

The only benefit we found during trials, is that onboard the ships you have many different fuel tanks, and to have a tracer in the bunkers that you actually supplied to the ship could be beneficial because then onboard you can prove that if some problems occur, for example with the separator or in the engine, you can prove whether it was your fuel or not that led to a problem.

Regarding the digital tracers, we have been looking into blockchain solutions already for years. But we also see that this ISCC chain is quite solid. In Europe, we will start working with the Union Database soon. It’s a European-wide database for all biofuel streams and everybody participating in the European schemes will need to fill in their mass balance in that system, so that they can basically keep track of all movements of biofuels.

If you at some point adopt such a system globally, that would be very strong, but it's definitely a good start that we have this unified database in Europe. I would say such a database is stronger than if we had worked independently as companies with blockchain technologies.

EH: Rotterdam’s total bio-blended bunker sales surged from 301,000 mt in 2021 to 791,000 mt in 2022, but then they unexpectedly dipped to 751,000 mt last year. Why was there a declining trend?

JS: It's based on multiple factors. And what we have seen, and we think has the biggest impact, is that Singapore biofuel bunker sales spiked a lot. There has been some movement away from the Netherlands to Singapore. Of course, what we also see in the Netherlands is that general bunker fuel consumption declined year-over-year from 2022 to 2023. The share of biofuel, or at least the absolute consumption of biofuel, went down in those years. And fossil as well.

Rotterdam and Singapore bio bunker sales to Q1 2024

We see a tendency that LNG has better economics. I think the LNG business has had quite some tough years in 2022-2023, and in 2021 as well a bit. But we see a lot of new vessels with LNG engines. We see that the LNG business is getting more traction again. So that is definitely an impact.

And maybe the last impact is that in the early years of biofuel adoption, especially in 2022, there were a lot of cargo owners pushing biofuel consumption because they wanted to decarbonise their supply chains in shipping.

Since last year, and especially this year, we have seen some economic headwinds. We see that there is less interest from cargo owners to pay extra for sustainable supply chains. Therefore we are lacking a push from the cargo owner side to bunker more sustainable fuels. We know from a lot of our customers that they are struggling to sell the emission reductions of their consumed biofuels to their cargo owners.


Photo credit: GoodFuels and ENGINE
Published: 18 June 2024

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Alternative Fuels

Argus Media Q&A: Aviation may pull feeds away from marine, says BV

Biofuel feedstocks could be routed away from marine fuels to meet demand from the aviation sector if the latter is willing to pay higher prices associated with sustainable aviation fuel, says Bureau Veritas.





resized argusmedia

Biofuel feedstocks could be routed away from marine fuels to meet demand from the aviation sector if the latter is willing to pay higher prices associated with sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), Bureau Veritas (BV) Marine & Offshore's global market leader for sustainable shipping Julien Boulland told Argus. Edited highlights follow:

19 July 2024

Marine biodiesel has been the largest alternative fuel uptake, with over 1mn t sold in Rotterdam and Singapore last year. But with Argus assessments showing premiums above $225/t to VLSFO dob ARA, how do you see marine biodiesel demand in the medium- to long-term?

Shipowners and ship operators have to run an individual cost-analysis on whether the premiums could be offset by potential savings under EU emissions trading system (ETS) and FuelEU Maritime regulations, as well as any future regulations such as the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) economic pricing mechanism.

In terms of emissions, biofuels still emit CO2 on a tank-to-wake basis, but less on a well-to-wake basis compared to their fossil equivalents. This will also vary depending on the feedstock for the biofuel as well as the production process.

Under the current IMO regulations for energy efficiency, including the Ship Energy Management Plan (SEEMP) and its requirements for fuel reporting (DCS), there might be some indirect commercial benefits for owners, too. For example, a better CII (Carbon Intensity Indicator) score may make a vessel more appealing to charterers and help its owner secure more favourable rates.

There are also other factors to consider, such as Scope 3 emissions rights, which can influence demand, as we currently see from voluntary demand from cargo owners seeking those documents.

But this will also have a geographic impact on demand, as larger container liner companies usually utilise the east-west route and they might prefer to opt for bunkering the marine biodiesel blend in Singapore due to lower prices.

What are the risks associated with bunkering marine biodiesel in relation to conventional ship engines? How significant is the recent FOBAS report that implied a correlation between the use of "unidentified" biofuels and engine pump injector damage?

We have supported our shipowner clients in numerous pilots to trial biofuels such as fatty acid methyl ester (Fame) and hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) in variable blends.

Overall, these trials have gone smoothly, but we have learned a few things along the way.

Firstly, engines do not need to be modified, but since biofuels have slightly different physical properties, it is necessary to find the right engine adjustments. A very good knowledge of the fuel properties is key in determining the right adjustments, and the new revision of ISO 8217 on marine fuel specifications is crucial in supporting this process. Another key finding is the importance of receiving full information on fuel characteristics from the supplier. Finally, BV plays a key role in ensuring full fuel certification on several aspects, including sustainability and physical properties.

Used cooking oil (UCO) can also feed into SAF and with potentially greater refining margins. Do you think some feedstocks will be pulled away from marine?

When it comes to methanol, we believed marine would take up more of the feedstock compared with the chemicals industry due to greater willingness to pay larger premiums.

But with biofuels, it seems to be the other way around where aviation could end up pulling biofuel feedstocks away from maritime. In terms of fuel consumption, the marine and aviation industries are comparable but if aviation are willing to pay more, then it will likely get more of the feedstocks required to produce SAF.

What are the implications of the new ISO specifications, what are the key takeaways for marine biodiesel uptake?

More has to be done, but now we have parameters for assessing biofuel blend specifications.

It was very well accepted by the industry, and now operators and shipowners have a standard to rely on. 

But it doesn't resolve the question around feedstock cross-industry competition. However, it does also open the door for off-spec Fame residue blends to become ISO-certified — depending on further testing.

With IMO aiming for "global regulations for a global market", how do you see conflicts between different regulations affecting the market?

We are closely following the IMO development process for a global economic pricing mechanism.

IMO has assigned a working group of technical experts to look at this mechanism from an apolitical perspective.

In terms of potential regulatory conflicts, we have the example of the Netherlands, where the Dutch emission authority requires the delivery of Proof of Sustainability (PoS) certificates for applying to the scheme of Dutch renewable tickets (HBE-G) which can be traded, but this PoS cannot be used for other purposes, such as the EU ETS. To circumvent this hiccup, we may see the development of new digital certificates, such as an accompanying ISCC-certified Proof of Compliance (PoC).

By Hussein Al-Khalisy

Related: FOBAS announces publication of ISO 8217:2024 marine fuel specifications and FAQs


Photo credit and source: Argus Media
Published: 23 July, 2024

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Bunker Fuel

ENGINE on Fuel Switch Snapshot: HSFO remains cheapest across hubs

Brent’s steep fall brings VLSFO down; Singapore premiums over Rotterdam narrow; EU to impose tariffs on Chinese biodiesel imports.





ENGINE on Fuel Switch Snapshot: HSFO remains cheapest across hubs

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:

22 July 2024

  • Brent's steep fall brings VLSFO down
  • Singapore premiums over Rotterdam narrow
  • EU to impose tariffs on Chinese biodiesel imports

A sharp drop of $2.40/bbl ($18/mt) in front-month Brent futures has pushed down conventional fuel prices for yet another week. 

Bio-blend prices have also declined amid decreases in both bio- and conventional fuel components. 

Rotterdam’s VLSFO-equivalent LNG benchmark has bucked the downward trend and inched up by $3/mt in the past week.

LNG bunker fuel is priced $16/mt higher than VLSFO in Singapore, making VLSFO the cheaper option for dual-fuel vessels bunkering there. Conversely, LNG is the more cost-effective choice for dual-fuel ships bunkering in Rotterdam.

The ARA’s B24-VLSFO UCOME price premium over Singapore’s has widened from $19/mt to $32/mt as Singapore’s price has dropped.


VLSFO demand has improved slightly in the ARA in the past week, following slow activity the week before, a trader said. This seems to have prevented Rotterdam’s VLSFO benchmark from following Brent's significant decline.

Singapore’s VLSFO benchmark has tracked more of the crude benchmark's price drop, slipping by $14/mt in the past week. Most suppliers recommend lead times of up to 14 days for VLSFO in the port, but some can manage deliveries within five days.

When factoring in estimated EUA costs, Rotterdam’s VLSFO price has declined by $7-9/mt, while Singapore’s price has fallen by $16/mt.


Singapore’s B24-VLSFO UCOME price has declined by $7/mt in the past week, while its B24-LSMGO UCOME price has fallen by $9/mt. The two bio-bunker benchmarks have declined amid declining values for pure VLSFO ($4/mt) and LSMGO ($9/mt).

On Friday, the European Commission announced that it will impose provisional duties of up to 36.4% on biodiesel imports from China. PRIMA said “the EU anti-dumping results and its associated duties (ADDs) have effectively killed off Chinese biodiesel trading prospects into Europe”.

A lack of EU demand for Chinese biodiesel could result in more Chinese UCOME being exported to meet demand in countries like Singapore, sources say.

Rotterdam’s B30-VLSFO HBE price has declined by $8/mt in the past week, while its B30-LSMGO HBE price has dropped by a greater $14/mt. A $32/mt drop in the ARA POMEME price assessed by PRIMA Markets has pulled both benchmarks lower.

Biofuel price premiums over pure conventional fuels in Rotterdam are $189/mt for B30-VLSFO HBE blends and $136/mt for B30-LSMGO HBE blends. These premiums have narrowed by $9-12/mt in the past week.

The EU’s provisional duties on Chinese biodiesel imports could tighten availability of bio feedstocks for bio-bunker blending across Europe.


Rotterdam’s LNG bunker price has risen by $22/mt to $652/mt in the past week. The price rise has tracked an increase in the front-month NYMEX Dutch TTF Natural Gas contract.

The upward trend can be attributed to supply concerns at the Freeport LNG export terminal on the US Gulf Coast, a major source of European LNG supply. Some 5.4% of Europe's total LNG imports last year came from Freeport LNG.

Several LNG cargoes from Freeport LNG were held back from being exported by supply disruptions caused by Hurricane Beryl. This has contributed to push Rotterdam's LNG price higher in the past week.

Singapore's LNG bunker price has decreased by $11/mt, driven by a falling NYMEX Japan/Korea Marker (JKM) price.

The JKM price increased some in the middle of last week due to active deals to meet summer demand, before falling amid ample supply and high inventory levels, according to a report by the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security (JOGMEC).

By Konica Bhatt


Photo credit and source: ENGINE
Published: 23 July 2024

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Bunker Fuel

Island Oil records USD 29.0 million net profit in FY 2023, second-best year in 30-year history

Total comprehensive income for FY 2023 was USD 32.5 million, down 25% from USD 43.2 million in FY 2022, showed financial figures.





Island Oil and Island Petroleum receive ISCC EU certification for bio bunker fuels

Editor’s note: Manifold Times on Tuesday (16 July) released a report detailing financial figures of Island Oil Holdings calculated under guidelines from international ESG reporting standards that also assesses the cost of non-financial items such as emissions, social contributions, etc.

The report has been updated on Friday (19 July) with figures based on the entity’s actual financial results calculated using standard accounting practices.

Cyprus-based Island Oil (Holdings) Limited, which principal activities include marine fuel trading and physical bunkering operations, recorded its second-best year in its 30-year history for the financial year ended 31 December 2023.

The group posted net profit of USD 29.0 million in FY 2023, a 29% decrease over net profit of USD 41.0 million in FY 2022.

Total comprehensive income for FY 2023 was USD 32.5 million, down 25% from USD 43.2 million in FY 2022.

Revenue was USD 1.40 billion in FY 2023, 23% lower from revenue of USD 1.82 billion in FY 2022.

“The Group’s development to date, financial results and position as presented in the consolidated financial statements, are considered satisfactory,” stated Chrysostomos S. Papavassiliou, Chief Executive Officer/Chairman of the Board of Directors.

“The bunkering industry has become very competitive, and the Group has developed its pricing policy accordingly in an effort to further penetrate the market.”

Papavassiliou acknowledged an imperative for sustainable practices in the industry and noted the Group is poised to implement an ESG and decarbonisation strategy.

“This ambitious initiative aligns with our dedication to environmental stewardship and underscores our role in contributing to a low-carbon future. We are also committed to environmental responsibility in our operations, aiming to enhance our energy efficiency and decrease our Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions,” he shared.

“The Group recognises the maritime industry’s ongoing transition to alternative fuels, driven by international and EU regulations, including the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS). Proactively responding to this shift, the Group has obtained in 2023 the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC EU) as recognised biofuel traders, enabling the Group to engage in the trading of marine biofuels.”

In 2023, two subsidiary companies of the Group obtained the International Sustainability and Carbon Certification (ISCC EU), as recognised Traders of biofuels. In particular, Island Oil Limited, the Group’s marine fuels trading arm, has attained certification as Trader of biofuels.

Additionally, Island Petroleum Limited, which offers physical supply of marine fuels, has achieved the same certification, as Trader with Storage of biofuels.

The Group is also involved in two projects funded by its Research and Innovation Fund including a pilot initiative on using biomethane as a drop-in marine biofuel.

“This pilot initiative aims to demonstrate an up to 80% reduction in lifecycle GHG emissions using BioMethane as a marine biofuel. Leveraging innovative technologies, the team has established a virtual gas grid with a mobile biogas Upgrading, Storage, and Refueling Unit (USRU),” the company said in the report.

“Successful evaluation would lead to scaling up the model, integrating local biogas production, BioMethane upgrading, and utilisation in PetroNav Ship Management’s fleet,” it said. PetroNav Ship Management is one of the Group’s subsidiaries.

Related: Island Oil and Island Petroleum receive ISCC EU certification for bio bunker fuels
Related: Island Oil eyes Korean market with new Seoul office
Related: Island Oil continues expansion into Chinese markets with new Hong Kong trading office


Photo credit: Island Oil
Published: 23 July 2024

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