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Foreship: Energy density and safety aspects of alternative marine fuels must be addressed in future ship designs

‘Methanol-ready’ term has been overstretched to include ships which are far from ready for the alternative marine fuel, Jan-Erik Räsänen, Chief Technology Officer, Foreship tells Manifold Times.

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Foreship: Energy density and safety aspects of alternative marine fuels must be addressed in future ship designs

The increasing use of alternative marine fuels due to IMO 2030/2050 regulations is creating challenges that ship designers still need to overcome, according to Helsinki-based ship design and engineering specialist Foreship.

“’Future proof design’ is one of the key words of the shipping industry these days,” Jan-Erik Räsänen, Chief Technology Officer, Foreship told bunkering publication Manifold Times.

“While clearly still challenging, designing ships for lower emissions was more straightforward in the early days because it involved heavy fuel oil (HFO) and marine gas oil (MGO); their superior energy density and relatively high flash point offer great flexibility when designing ships.

“However, while alternative bunker fuels are a good thing due to their lower emissions, they also come with challenges. Ship designers have to consider the energy density, energy content and, due to their low flash points, these fuels must be accessed and stored in separate tanks.”

Foreship 14 Large format

Challenges of marine engine retrofits to use methanol and LNG

The option of retrofitting vessel engines to use alternative marine fuels such as methanol and liquified natural gas (LNG) also pose their own set of issues, highlights Räsänen.

“Today most shipowners thinking about a retrofit probably consider methanol as their starting point; for ship designers the methanol is a good bunker fuel as it offers flexibility in choosing between different storage tank locations on a vessel,” he explained.

“However, one of challenges for methanol is the need to do more structure-wise when compared to traditional bunker fuels such as HFO and MGO. Designers must strengthen the hull to cope with additional weight from the weight and introduction of cofferdams; containerships will most likely lose cargo space as a result of the conversion.

“Foreship has already done several conversion designs for cruise ships to use methanol, and the conversion can be more straight forward than some might expect, with double bottom tanks and ballast water tanks used to store the bunker fuel. However, doing so comes at a cost - structure-wise.”

Räsänen points out that classification societies also offer initial thoughts on engine retrofit plans to consume methanol. Additionally, engine manufacturers such as Wärtsilä and MAN offer retrofit kits for their own two-stroke engines to simplify the process.

“As such, today we usually ask shipyards to strengthen the hull to accept alternative bunker fuel,  ,”  Räsänen noted, although he expressed reservations on the use of LNG as a future marine fuel. “We are debating heavily on methane slip especially on four-stroke LNG engines,” he said.

‘Methanol-ready’ term overstretched

Moving forward, Räsänen felt the term ‘methanol-ready’ has been over-used, at a time when its definition has not been standardised by class societies.

In general, to secure approval-in-principle (AiP) status as a ‘methanol-ready’, ship owners must agree that a certain number of vessel modifications need to be  carried out so that the ship can consume methanol as a bunker fuel.

However, shipowners can secure the in-principle approval before all of the modifications are carried out, with the ship notated as ‘methanol-ready’ on the basis that it is on the right path.

“This is a departure from the ordinary understanding of what it means for something to be ‘technology-ready’, said Räsänen. “Given what is at stake, it’s essential that these terms aren’t vulnerable to being considered gimmicks.”

Potential risks included ship managers taking a vessel on long term charter on the grounds that it was ‘methanol-ready’ when a full evaluation of its conversion had not been undertaken.

“This AiP has varied between different class societies, and I’d say there certainly needs to be standardisation on what ‘methanol-ready’ notation means – as a matter of priority .”

 

Photo credit: Foreship
Published: 7 May 2024

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Business

Interview: Malaysia bunker supplier PSP Marine shares commercial expansion plans

‘IMO 2020 has produced several business opportunities which we are keen to explore as part of efforts to support shipping’s decarbonisation,’ Managing Director tells Manifold Times.

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PSP Grace MT

Malaysian bunker supplier PSP Marine (M) Sdn Bhd, established at Port Klang since 2012, is planning to expand its marine fuels business within the coming years, learned Manifold Times.

The company, which currently supplies marine gas oil (MGO), its low sulphur variant (LS MGO), and lubricant oil to vessels calling Peninsula Malaysia ports (including Sabah and Sarawak), is actively looking at market opportunities, says its Managing Director.

“We have stood the test of time and proven ourselves in this industry since our inception,” Soon Thian Fong told the bunkering publication.

“In order for our group to grow, become more resilient, and to tackle more complex and intricate challengers, we are expanding our bunkering business to other ports in Malaysia.

“We have successfully expanded to the Port of Tanjung Pelepas, Pasir Gudang Port, Melaka Sungai Udang Port, and Kuantan Port.

“Moreover, we aim to diversify into international petroleum cargo trading. Our target markets are Asian countries with growth and scarce energy supplies such as Taiwan, Singapore, and Indonesia.”

PSP bunkering collage

Bunker deliveries from PSP Marine are currently supported by three Malaysia-flagged bunker tankers namely PSP Grace (755 dwt, IMO 9056466), PSP Glory (737 dwt, IMO 8403038), and PSP Golden (1,198 dwt, IMO 9079652).

Moving forward, Mr Soon highlights the company to be looking at barge acquisition opportunities and a product portfolio expansion to offer Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO).

“The next two years will be interesting times for our company as we look to execute the expansion plans. IMO 2020 has produced several business opportunities which we are keen to explore as part of efforts to support shipping’s decarbonisation,” shared Mr Soon who noted, “opening of an office in Singapore is also within our sights.”

PSP Group supply locations

Contact details for enquiries are as follows:

Mr. Soon Thian Fong (AZ Soon)
Managing Director
+60 12 699 4488
[email protected]

Jane Ong
Sales Manager
+60 14 609 4488
[email protected]

Marine fuel enquiries
Email: [email protected]

Bunkering locations (West Malaysia)

LANGKAWI, PENANG, LUMUT, PORT KLANG, PORT DICKSON, KUALA LINGGI, MELAKA, MUAR, TG PELEPAS, TG BIN, JOHOR BHARU, PASIR GUDANG, PENGERANG, MMHE, TG LANGSAT, KEMAMAN, KUANTAN,

Bunkering locations (East Malaysia)

MIRI, BINTULU, SANDAKAN, SEPANGAR, KOTA KINABALU, TAWAU, LAHAD DATU, KUCHING

 

Photo credit: PSP Marine
Published: 24 June 2024

 

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Biofuel

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.

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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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Methanol

Interview: Methanol marine fuel ‘favourable at the moment’ with X-Press Feeders, says COO

‘There are many pathways in this energy transition, but methanol engine technology is readily available and presents the quickest adoption path for us,’ Francis Goh tells Manifold Times.

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Francis Goh X-Press Feeders

Singapore-based global maritime container shipping company X-Press Feeders is currently looking at green methanol marine fuel as the answer to power its energy transition, shared its Chief Operating Officer.

“Bio-methanol is favourable for the operating profile of X-Press Feeders at the moment as it allows our vessels to still maintain carrying capacity while keeping to a green profile,” Francis Goh told bunkering publication Manifold Times in an exclusive interview on Monday (27 May).

“There are many pathways in this energy transition, but methanol engine technology is readily available and presents the quickest adoption path for us.

“LNG requires a lot of space for the bunker fuel tanks and choosing LNG would have eaten up a lot of carrying capacity for our latest 1,200 TEU newbuildings – which are designed for short trips.

“We operate 100 vessels in our global network, so we still need to stay open to opportunities and future pathways.”

The company recently celebrated the first simultaneous methanol bunkering and cargo operation (SIMOPS) of the 1,200 TEU capacity Eco Maestro in Singapore on 27 May; the containership is the first in a series of 14 newbuildings ordered from Yangzijiang Shipbuilding Holdings and New Dayang shipyard.

“These vessels run a fixed day weekly feeder route and are very fuel efficient. They can complete one round-voyage with just a full tank of methanol bunker fuel,” he added.

Mr Goh, meanwhile, noted training of crew and office staff to be a key factor in X-Press Feeders’ adoption of methanol marine fuel.

“We engaged Green Marine to provide training for us based on the IGF Code (International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels),” he explained.

“The use of methanol as a marine fuel is something new for the containership sector so we had to upskill our own people both on sea and land to use this bunker fuel safely.

“We paired current crew onboard with seafarers experienced with methanol and supported office staff with subject matter experts. Training went on for at least a six-month period before actual methanol bunkering operations [in Singapore].

“Moving forward, we intend to progressively post crew experienced with methanol bunkering to support the remaining 13 methanol-powered newbuildings as they enter service.”

Related: First SIMOPS methanol bunkering operation completed in Singapore
Related: Singapore-based X-Press Feeders takes delivery of methanol dual-fuel vessel
Related: Singapore-based X-Press Feeders to launch world’s first feeder network powered by green methanol

 

Photo credit: X-Press Feeders
Published: 30 May 2024

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