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Alternative Fuels

Singapore: VPS panel discussion presents a masterclass in shipping’s biofuel bunker adoption issues to the deck

VPS, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation, Wilhelmsen Ship Management, and INTERTANKO executives offered a multitude of perspectives to 73 attendees during the VPS Biofuels Seminar, reports Manifold Times.




VPS biofuels seminar panel discussion

Delegates were exposed to the latest trends and perspectives at a recent panel discussion session comprising of executives from marine fuel testing firm VPS, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD), Wilhelmsen Ship Management, and the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (INTERTANKO).

The session, held as part of the VPS Biofuels Seminar, was moderated by Captain Rahul Choudhuri, Managing Director for Asia, Middle East & Africa (AMEA) at VPS.

Captain Rahul Choudhuri

Captain Rahul Choudhuri

“The role of biofuels is an important step in the direction of a viable option for an alternative fuel source,” said Captain Choudhuri.

“It is not the only option but it is gaining momentum and we have seen a drastic change from pre-Covid to post-Covid in terms on greater usage of biofuels.

“But it needs to be understood if we are to use it successfully and safely in the shipping industry.

“This is the motivation for us to have our VPS Biofuels Seminar in Singapore. This interaction is necessary to understand different points of view and find a pragmatic path forward for greener fuels.”

He emphasised Singapore has been the first country to have developed a provisional national standard on specifications of marine biofuel (WA 2:2022), which global adoption is important.

“WA 2:2022 shows that Singapore port is ready, the technical experience is there, and the quality is assured,” said Captain Choudhuri, who was also the Chairman of the committee involved in its development.

“However, I was fairly disappointed that ISO [the International Organization for Standardization] has been in my opinion parochial and maybe too political to accept WA 2:2022 which is technically robust.”

Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation – Assurance framework in development

Dr Prapisala Thepsithar, Director, Research & Projects, GCMD believed a firm set of standards such as WA 2:2022 will be necessary for the future safe use and adoption of biofuels as a bunker fuel.

She revealed GCMD has been developing an assurance framework to ascertain quantity, quality and greenhouse gas (GHG) abatement for green marine fuels.

“We foresee during the energy transition, green fuel production will ramp up with the introduction of biofuels into the marine fuel supply chain and we need a framework to differentiate certain martials [i.e. gray/bio/green/blue methanol, green/blue/brown ammonia],” she explained.

“Our first assurance framework project is focused on biofuels including FAME, HVO and crude algae oil where we monitor the quality of biofuel from the country of origin until blending and bunkering operations – which to date we have not discovered any quality issues.”

Still, Dr Thepsithar pointed out the case may be different in the time ahead when demand increases – incentivising players to inflate the quantity of biofuels through the addition of chemicals and foreign material.

“So that's why I think the robust standard [including WA 2:2022] is necessary.”

In addition, she noted GCMD has been conducting extensive laboratory work on long-term degradation and compatibility tests of marine biofuels in this project.

“We are still lacking quite a lot of data to support findings; certain parameters have to be established in order to measure empirical evidence,” she noted.

“I believe WA 2:2022 presents very reasonable parameters for this activity.”

Dr Thepsithar also noted GCMD working with VPS to incorporate “fingerprinting” technology into its assurance framework.

VPS – Trials biofuel ‘fingerprinting’ technology using GC-MS techniques

“This [fingerprinting] work that we're doing with GCMD is quite ground breaking,” said Steve Bee, Group Commercial Director, VPS who added: “The science is there, we just need to just tweak it.”

Though still in its early stages, Bee shared Gas Chromatography – Mass Spectrometry (GC-MS) techniques employed has shown it being able to identify the differences between biofuels based on palm oil, soya, and more with some unexpected (but useful) results.

“Initial signs are really, really encouraging and positive,” he shared.

“We have seen examples where suppliers say ‘It's compound X which is a completely renewable, sustainable product made from waste’ and we've identified the biofuel being made from palm oil – completely different to what they actually said was in their fuel.

“It's still early days, but I say the signs are all really positive; the physical trace element will help GCMD develop confidence and traceability and transparency in the supply chain.”

Wilhelmsen Ship Management (WSM) – ‘Money the driver’ for bio feedstock production

Carl Schou, CEO of WSM, meanwhile offered his perspective on biofuel production, green marine fuel corridors, and the influence of ‘big and strong’ shipowners over methanol as a bunker fuel during the panel discussion.

“When the shipping sector increasingly adopts biofuels as bunkers, farmers might choose to produce crops as a bunker feedstock over human consumption; if farmers get a higher price for fuel is pretty obvious what they will be doing,” he predicted.

“Hence, this has to be seen from all sides so we don't start competing with food production. As always, money is the driver. If somebody gets more money, then obviously it will go in that direction.”

According to Schou, a number of shipping corridors with different bunker fuel types will start to emerge on the back of approaching IMO 2030/2050.

“I know there are several projects ongoing with different corridors with various fuels such as ammonia, biofuels and more. I don't think we will see a situation where we have a global supply of one or the other [type of alternative bunker fuel],” he stated.

“So, this is also going to be another challenge added to this whole fuel issue.

“If you want to trade Singapore to China then it's kind of a biofuel corridor. If you do Middle East to Singapore then it's different type of fuels. This is something which I think we are seeing panning out now.”

A few “big and strong” shipowners have also been setting the precedence for the adoption of methanol as a marine fuel, noted Schou.

“A lot of the driving force [for green fuels] will be coming from the big players, and then you have the smaller players who will follow up,” he said.

“But at the end of the day, the smaller players might try to avoid a lot of this because the focus is on the bigger players.

“So, it's a double-edged sword here.”

INTERTANKO – ‘Agnostic’ on alternative bunker fuel types for IMO GHG goals

During the session, Elfian Harun, Regional Manager Southeast Asia & Environment Manager, INTERTANKO said the organisation was “agnostic” on the type of alternative fuels that could meet the long-term objective of the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s GHG goals.

“However, there are a couple of caveats. These include fuels to be not harmful to ship’s crew; fuels to be available worldwide; and to be provided with solid certified documentation regarding its carbon footprint,” informed Harun.

Regarding regulatory hurdles for the adoption of biofuels as bunkers, Harun pointed out there is a need for consistent approval procedures by Flag States for the use of biofuel on vessels.

“IMO will have to sort this out before any fuel is declared ‘alternative’ as far as the decarbonisation regulations are concerned.”

The current debate from the Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) perspective for biofuels will also need to be addressed.

“A number of sustainability factors are currently being considered for inclusion in the draft LCA Guidelines,” he said.

“These would have an impact on how biofuels will be lower GHG emitters when compared to conventional fossil fuels especially from a Well-to-Wake (WtW) perspective, in particular, the Well-to-Tank (WtT) component.

“Currently, ten sustainability themes/aspects [GHG emission levels, carbon source, source of electricity/energy, Direct Land-Use Change, Indirect Land Use Change, impact on water supply, impact on air quality, impact on soil health, impact from chemical or wastes released during production, impact on ecosystem biodiversity] are being discussed for inclusion in the LCA guidelines.

“Some of these appear to be particularly targeted at ensuring biomass crops are sustainable and should not cause mitigating actions to address these aspects, which may in turn, lead to increase in GHG emissions.”

Operational concerns for the use of biofuels as bunkers will also need to be resolved, as there is a need for real-world experiences to be documented and shared among users of biofuel.

“Eventually, a standard procedure would need to be developed for the safe use of biofuel as fuel for ships,” he ends.

VPS biofuel seminar 20 of 20

(Left to Right) Steve Bee, Elfian Harun, Carl Schou, Dr Prapisala Thepsithar, Captain Rahul Choudhuri

Related: VPS: The importance of bunker fuel chemical screening and why it can no longer be ignored
Related: VPS: Shipowners turn to ‘highly reactive’ Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL) biofuel blends for marine fuel


Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 22 February, 2023

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LNG Bunkering

CMA CGM takes delivery of fourth LNG-fuelled containership

Naming ceremony and delivery of vessel, organised at HD Hyundai Mipo in Ulsan, South Korea, marked entry of the fourth vessel in a series of ten specially designed for Northern Europe feeder services.





CMA CGM takes delivery of fourth LNG-fuelled containership

French shipping giant on Wednesday (19 June) said it celebrated the naming ceremony and delivery of its fourth LNG-fuelled container ship, CMA CGM Tivoli.

Organised at HD Hyundai Mipo in Ulsan, South Korea, on 16 June, the event marked the official entry of the fourth vessel in a series of ten specially designed for Northern Europe feeder services.

“Featuring optimised features for 45-foot containers, increased capacity for refrigerated containers, and innovative forward accommodation to enhance cargo loading and aerodynamics, CMA CGM Tivoli distinguishes itself with a high ‘length to beam" ratio to maximise hydrodynamic efficiency,” the firm said in a social media post. 

“She departed the shipyard on June 15th, 2024, bound for Busan. We wish fair winds and smooth seas to Captain Artur Dumbrov and his crew.” 


Photo credit: CMA CGM
Published: 21 June, 2024

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Mitsubishi Shipbuilding receives orders for Japan’s first methanol-fuelled RoRo cargo ship duo

Two ships will be built at the Enoura Plant of MHI’s Shimonoseki Shipyard & Machinery Works in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with scheduled completion and delivery by the end of fiscal 2027.





Mitsubishi Shipbuilding receives orders for Japan's first methanol-fuelled RoRo cargo ship duo

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., a part of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group, on Wednesday (19 June) said it has received orders from Toyofuji Shipping and Fukuju Shipping for Japan's first methanol-fueled roll-on/roll-off (RORO) cargo ships. 

The two ships will be built at the Enoura Plant of MHI's Shimonoseki Shipyard & Machinery Works in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with scheduled completion and delivery by the end of fiscal 2027.

The ships will be approximately 169.9 meters in overall length and 30.2 meters in breadth, with 15,750 gross tonnage, and loading capacity for around 2,300 passenger vehicles.

A windscreen at the bow and a vertical stem are used to reduce propulsion resistance, while fuel efficiency is improved by employing MHI's proprietary energy-saving system technology combing high-efficiency propellers and high-performance rudders with reduced resistance. 

The main engine is a high-performance dual-fuel engine that can use both methanol and A heavy fuel oil, reducing CO2 emissions by more than 10% compared to ships with the same hull and powered by fuel oil, contributing to a reduced environmental impact. 

In the future, the use of green methanol(2) may lead to further reduction in CO2 emissions, including throughout the lifecycle of the fuel. Methanol-fueled RORO ships have already entered into service as ocean-going vessels around the world, but this is the first construction of coastal vessels for service in Japan.

In addition, the significant increase in vehicle loading capacity and transport capacity per voyage compared to conventional vessels will provide greater leeway in the ship allocation schedule, securing more holiday and rest time for the crew, thereby contributing to working style reforms.

Mitsubishi Shipbuilding, to address the growing needs from the modal shift in marine transport against the backdrop of CO2 reductions in land transportation, labor shortages, and working style reforms, will continue to work with its business partners to provide solutions for a range of societal issues by building ferries and RORO vessels with excellent fuel efficiency and environmental performance that contribute to stable navigation for customers.


Photo credit: Mitsubishi Shipbuilding
Published: 20 June, 2024

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Maersk and Nike to christen methanol-fuelled boxship at Port of Los Angeles in August

Powered by methanol for its maiden voyage and capable of carrying more than 16,000 containers, the vessel will get its new name at a private ceremony at Port of Los Angeles Outer Harbor.






A.P. Moller – Maersk (Maersk) on Wednesday (19 June) said it will be christening one of the world’s first methanol-enabled vessels when it arrives in Los Angeles this August.

The firm invited the public to go aboard the container ship in Los Angeles.

Powered by methanol for its maiden voyage and capable of carrying more than 16,000 containers (TEU), the vessel will get its new name at a private ceremony at the Port of Los Angeles Outer Harbor on Tuesday, August 27. 

Maersk’s CEO Vincent Clerc will be on hand, alongside special guest speakers from Nike and leading state and local officials. Nike is a partner in the name-giving event.

“Nike is committed to protecting the future of sport and we leverage science-based targets to guide us through our Move to Zero journey,” said Venkatesh Alagirisamy, Nike Chief Supply Chain Officer.

“Operating one of the largest supply chains in the world, we have a responsibility to advance the innovation and use of more sustainable methods that get us closer to zero carbon and zero waste. By working with suppliers like Maersk, who share our commitment to sustainability, we are scaling our use of biofuels in ocean transportation, our main first-mile delivery channel.”

“This event is not only an opportunity to celebrate a remarkable engineering achievement, but the chance to highlight that we can navigate towards more sustainable supply chains if we work together,” said Charles van der Steene, Regional President for Maersk North America.

On Wednesday, August 28, Maersk invites the public to tour the 350-meter-long vessel, which will be sailing from Asia. Visitors will be able to see the Sailors’ living quarters and even stand on the bridge from where the captain controls the vessel. Public tours will require visitors register for a free ticket via an online registration site that will be activated and announced in August.

This is the fifth container vessel in Maersk’s fleet that can sail on green methanol bunker fuel.


Photo credit: A.P. Moller – Maersk
Published: 20 June, 2024

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