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Singapore: Vopak and A*STAR ink MoU to explore low carbon energy solutions

Both will research low carbon energy solutions, including addressing current challenges associated with hydrogen and ammonia, such as scalability, safety, storage and transportation.

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Vopak Terminals Singapore (Vopak) and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) on Friday (27 October) said they signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to explore research opportunities in low carbon energy solutions, including addressing current challenges associated with hydrogen and ammonia, such as scalability, safety, storage and transportation. 

As a clean fuel that can be used to generate electricity, the duo said the low-carbon hydrogen is an increasingly promising solution which can spur Singapore’s decarbonisation efforts as Singapore transitions towards net zero by 2050. 

They added ammonia, a hydrogen carrier, has also emerged as a possible fuel for power generation, as well as a low-carbon bunker fuel. 

The partnership between Vopak and A*STAR will focus on the development of low-carbon energy technologies by combining Vopak’s expertise and assets in importing, storing and handling ammonia on large scales, with A*STAR’s research capabilities in energy transition and low carbon energy. The partnership will also enable researchers to access Singapore’s only ammonia import, storage and handling infrastructure to accelerate R&D and conduct technology pilots.

Rob Boudestijn, President, Vopak Terminals Singapore, said: “Hydrogen and ammonia can play an important role in Singapore’s transition to a low-carbon economy. As Singapore’s leading independent terminal infrastructure provider, we have extensive knowledge and experience in the safe handling of ammonia.”

“We recognize the unique role that Vopak can play to support Singapore’s net zero ambitions. We look forward to collaborate with A*STAR to accelerate the safe scale up & commercialisation of these low-carbon energy solutions.”

Prof Yeo Yee Chia, Assistant Chief Executive, Innovation & Enterprise, A*STAR, said: “A*STAR looks forward to our partnership with Vopak to support Singapore’s National Hydrogen Strategy, where hydrogen could supply up to half of our power needs by 2050. By advancing technologies for low- or zero-carbon fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia and harnessing them for diverse industry applications, we can help pave the way to a more sustainable future enabled by innovative clean energy sources.”

Photo credit: Vopak
Published: 1 November, 2023

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VLSFO

Integr8: European VLSFO bunker fuel prices are worth watching

Research contributor Steve Christy explains what is behind the steep rise in European VLSFO prices relative to markets elsewhere in the world and where the Rotterdam VLSFO price may go in the coming weeks.

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Integr8: European VLSFO bunker fuel prices are worth watching

By Steve Christy, Research Contributor, Integr8 Fuels
[email protected]  

22 February 2024       

Recent uptick in oil prices; but for temporary reasons

There are mixed signals driving the absolute price of oil at the moment, with a slightly more bullish push over the past two weeks. But, to put it in context, this recent uptick followed a sharp drop in prices at the end of January and into the first few days of February, when Brent crude fell from $82/bbl to $77/bbl. The ‘bullish’ push in the past two weeks has only brought Brent back to $82/bbl.

Looking at very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) prices in Singapore and Fujairah, these have traded in a narrow $25/mt range so far this month and are still lower than their end January levels (and $35-40/mt lower than average November prices). This is not the case in Rotterdam.

Integr8: European VLSFO bunker fuel prices are worth watching

Behind these price movements there have been some temporary bullish factors in the oil industry so far this year. Arctic weather conditions in North America shut in around 0.9 million b/d of oil production and halted around 1.7 million b/d refinery operations. At the same time, there have been planned, heavy maintenance programs in the Atlantic Basin refining industry running through January and into February. This again has restricted product availabilities and led to lower stock levels. But these are temporary issues!

On the bearish side, in recent reports we have focused on the weak prospects for oil demand this year, and this is still in play, especially when you look at the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) latest forecast for 2024. Also, gains in non-OPEC production look as though they will be high this year, and the recent cuts in OPEC+ production have been limited to only 0.2-0.3 million b/d from December levels. Therefore, the fundamentals for this year would indicate a ‘lid’ on prices. This, plus the ability of the industry to work around the attacks on Red Sea shipping, has so far superseded the heightened political events and risks in the Middle East region.

European VLSFO prices are ‘more exposed’

From the chart above, Rotterdam VLSFO prices have risen more steeply than in Singapore and Fujairah over the past two weeks. Rotterdam VLSFO prices are around $50/mt higher than in early February, and unlike the other major bunkering hubs, Rotterdam prices are higher than we have seen so far this year, and some $10/mt above their November average.

Back in November, Rotterdam VLSFO was priced at around $580/mt and Singapore at around $680/mt, i.e. a differential of $100/mt. Between then and now Singapore prices have fallen by $40, but Rotterdam prices have gone in the opposite direction and are around $10 higher. The net result is that the differential between the two markets has narrowed from $100- to $50/mt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

graph 2 (1)

VLSFO pricing related to middle distillate pricing

The nature of VLSFO means supply and price movements are closely related to what is happening in other products. The chart below shows the close relationship between Rotterdam VLSFO and NW European diesel prices.

graph 3 (2)

The European VLSFO market looks like it will only get tighter

Europe is naturally short in the middle distillates of jet, diesel, and gasoil and so highly dependent on imports. The European sector had already been under pressure since the embargo on Russian supplies. However, the situation has tightened even further with the attacks on shipping in the Red Sea. These latest developments have hit diesel and jet shipments from the Middle East and India to Europe, with a leap in freight costs, longer voyage times via the Cape of Good Hope and tighter market conditions in Europe.

This loss of these supplies from east to west has partly been made up by an increase in diesel exports from the US to Europe. However, this may be short-lived as US refinery turnarounds in the first quarter cut availabilities and potentially limit diesel exports. Hence, European diesel (and so VLSFO) prices are likely to rise relative to VLSFO markets elsewhere in the world.

To compound this even more, Ukraine drone attacks on Russian refineries may have affected operations and so diesel exports from the country. Although this will not have a direct impact on the European diesel position, there is an indirect consequence, with other buyers of Russian products left short and having to source supplies from elsewhere, which will be in direct competition with European buyers.

Add to this a number of major European refineries going into turnaround in the north and Med regions, and the market is potentially even tighter!

If this isn’t enough, then there is a further layer to add to the argument; and that is the current exceptionally low distillate stock levels in Europe. The graph below shows the five year high/low range for middle distillate stocks in Europe, and that for the past two years stocks have been well below their five year average. More importantly, over the past three months stocks have been below their previous five year lows, and this is at a stage when we expect the market to tighten even further.

graph 4 (1)

Whatever happens, Rotterdam VLSFO prices are likely to be relatively high

All else being equal (it never is!), the fundamentals point towards a more bearish oil market, but with this relative strengthening in European VLSFO prices.

Beyond the fundamentals, the geopolitical risks at the moment clearly lie in the Israel/Gaza position and developments surrounding Iran. But there are also a number of elections this year that will contribute to more uncertainty, not least in the US.

However, as things pan out, the European distillate market does look tight going forward and this would mean relatively higher VLSFO prices in Rotterdam, and Europe generally.

 

Photo credit: Integr8 Fuels
Published: 23 February, 2024

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Business

Japanese consortium formed to develop design concepts for eco-friendly VLCCs

Consortium will combine expertise in the four companies’ respective fields to verify and select the effectiveness of next-generation bunker fuels and environmentally friendly equipment, amongst others.

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Japanese consortium formed to develop design concepts for eco-friendly VLCCs

Idemitsu Tanker Co.,Ltd., IINO Kaiun Kaisha, Ltd. (IINO Lines), Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK), and Nihon Shipyard Co., Ltd. on Tuesday (13 February) announced the establishment of a consortium on 26 January to conduct joint research and development of design concepts (particulars, machinery, and environmental equipment) for Malacca Max type Very Large Crude Oil Carriers (VLCCs) with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Malacca Max type VLCCs are the largest vessel type capable of passing through the Strait of Malacca, a major shipping route of crude oil between Japan and the Middle East.

Aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40% or more compared to previous levels, the consortium will combine expertise in the four companies’ respective fields to verify/select the effectiveness of next-generation bunker fuels and environmentally friendly equipment, as well as create design concepts, with a view to ultimately building and operating VLCCs.

In a statement, the parties explained that decarbonisation has become a significant global issue, but a stable supply of crude oil remains essential to the energy needs of Japan, which relies on the Middle East for more than 90% of the nation’s crude oil imports. VLCCs transporting crude oil are thus vital to Japan’s economy. 

“To minimise greenhouse gas emissions generated during transportation, shipping companies are considering switching from conventional fuels to next-generation fuels and installing environmentally friendly equipment, such as Carbon Capture and Storage Systems (CCS), among other measures,” it said.

“To address these issues, Idemitsu Tanker initiated the formation of this consortium by the four companies to study optimal solutions beyond the boundaries of each company.”

 

Photo credit: NYK
Published: 16 February, 2024

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Shipping Corridor

Report: Korea-US-Japan green shipping corridors can lead to significant environmental impact

Creating green shipping corridors between South Korea, the United States and Japan’s top two busiest routes can reduce up to 41.3 million tCO2 each year, says Korean NPO Solutions for Our Climate.

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Report: Korea-US-Japan green shipping corridors can lead to significant environmental impact

Korea-based non-profit organisation Solutions for Our Climate (SFOC) on Tuesday (13 February) said creating green shipping corridors between South Korea, the United States and Japan's top two busiest routes – Busan-Tokyo and Yokohama; Busan-Los Angeles and Long Beach– can reduce up to 41.3 million tCO2 each year. 

This is equivalent to annual emissions from over 9 million passenger vehicles in the United States.

“We evaluated the anticipated impact of several proposed KoreaUnited States-Japan green shipping corridors involving ports of Busan (KRPUS), Incheon (KRINC), and Gwangyang (KRKAN) —South Korea’s three major container ports,” SFOC said in the report. 

Each of the three South Korean ports will have the most significant environmental impact if connected to ports of Tokyo (JPTYO)/Yokohama (JPYOK) in Japan and ports of Los Angeles (USLAX)/Long Beach (USLGB) in the United States. 

“If container ships that travel KRPUS – JPTYO/ JPYOK and KRPUS – USLAX/USLGB are converted to zero emission ships, we can expect significant reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions, approximately 20.7 million tCO2 and 20.6 million tCO2, respectively,” it added. 

Accordingly, reducing GHG emissions in the global maritime shipping will require coordinated multilateral commitments and actions.

The green shipping corridor initiative is a global effort to align the shipping industry with the 1.5°C trajectory. It aims to:

  • Create maritime routes in which mainly zero-emission ships travel
  • Run ports with 100 percent renewable energy
  • Enforce mandatory use of on-shore power for docked vessels.

“With increasing global shipping emissions, green corridors are key to decarbonising the sector,” SFOC said. 

“Our latest report on green corridors comes on the heels of South Korea and the United States' announcement to work together to implement cross-country green shipping corridors between several of their key ports.”

 

Photo credit: Solutions for Our Climate
Published: 14 February, 2024

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