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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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Alternative Fuels

WEF: South Africa has great potential as a production and bunkering hub for zero-emission bunker fuels

Report highlighted a clear demand signal for bunkering ZEF in selected South African ports will be needed to realise the country’s opportunity to become a global hotspot for zero-emission shipping.





WEF: South Africa has great potential as a production and bunkering hub for zero-emission bunker fuels

South Africa has great potential as a production and bunkering hub for zero-emission shipping fuels – but it needs global demand to get the ball rolling, according to a report by the World Economic Forum recently.

The white paper, titled Decarbonising South Africa’s Shipping and Trucking Sectors, presented the findings and recommendations from a First Movers Coalition workshop held in South Africa in March 2024, which focused on decarbonising the country’s shipping and trucking sectors and developing its potential to produce green hydrogen.

The report said more than 200 dual-fuel methanol vessels have been ordered globally, requiring over 20 Mt of e-methanol fuel per annum to achieve 100% zero-emission operability.

However, fuel availability at that scale is expected to be challenged until at least 2030-35. This demand creates an opportunity for South African producers to secure early customers and sign advance offtake agreements, providing certainty for new projects and improving investment prospects.

The study noted that ammonia also brings advantages as a zero-emission fuel (ZEF), such as high carbon-emission savings, unlimited feedstock (nitrogen) availability and existing logistical infrastructure around the globe. 

While ammonia engines will reach the market from 2025 at the earliest, major carriers like Trafigura and BHP are already placing orders for dual-fuel ammonia vessels.

The World Bank has conducted a pre-feasibility study on establishing green shipping fuel value chains at the ports of Boegoebaai and Saldanha Bay. The study identifies ammonia as the preferred ZEF production choice for South Africa, due to the scarcity of biogenic carbon dioxide to produce methanol. 

“Most of the fuel’s cost comes from hydrogen feedstock – but by leveraging abundant wind and solar supply, the two ports will be able to generate renewable electricity at scale to produce competitive green hydrogen for local industry use (e.g. green steel) and to produce green ammonia for export to the global shipping industry,” the report said.

On bunkering, the report stated political disturbance and security risks in the Red Sea during 2023 to 24 forced many shipping operators to abandon the Suez Canal and re-route their cargo around the Cape of Good Hope. 

Even without those risks, operators shipping lower value or less time-critical cargo may use the Cape route rather than the more expensive Suez Canal, adding two weeks to a ship’s voyage time from Asia to Europe.

“This extra travel time – plus the lower density of zero-emission fuels – could compel vessels running on ZEF to bunker in South Africa before reaching Europe,” it said. 

“Access to zero-emission fuels therefore opens up the possibility of South African ports positioning themselves as bunkering hubs to supply passing shipping traffic.”

“Furthermore, the potential for South Africa to produce e-methanol and e-ammonia has triggered plans to develop ‘green corridors’ – effectively routes connecting ports for vessels to sail on ZEF.

However, the report highlighted a clear demand signal for bunkering ZEF in selected South African ports will be needed to realise the country’s opportunity to become a global hotspot for zero-emission shipping.

“As local demand may take some years to build up, certainty from global demand will play a key role. It is also important to assess different uses for hydrogen beyond maritime fuel, to determine how multi-sectoral offtake can improve the business case for potential project developers,” it said.

Note: The full white paper, titled ‘Decarbonising South Africa’s Shipping and Trucking Sectors’, can be viewed here.


Photo credit: World Economic Forum
Published: 24 June, 2024

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DB Schenker to ship Avolta cargo between Europe and US with bio bunker fuel

All containers that Avolta will move on the Barcelona – Miami route, using biofuel, will be shipped on low emission through application of waste-based marine biofuels and additional units of sustainable marine biofuel.





DB Schenker

Travel retailer Avolta recently said it entered an agreement in Spain with logistics service provider DB Schenker for the transport of goods using marine biofuel between Europe and the United States.

From now on, all containers that Avolta will move on the Barcelona - Miami route, using biofuel, will be shipped on low emission through the application of waste-based marine biofuels and additional units of sustainable marine biofuel, to achieve additional compensation of the biofuel’s upstream emissions.

“This biofuel switch could prevent over 150 tons of CO2e Well-to-Wake emissions per year, based on Avolta’s 2023 container volume on this route, reducing up to 84% of the CO2 emissions,” the firm said.

The fuel used is Used Cooking oil methyl ester (UCOME) and is based on renewable and sustainable sources, mainly waste cooking oil. 

The application will be guided by the Book & Claim System, a set of principles that have been developed through a global, multi-stakeholder process with third-party validation to ensure that the use of this chain of custody model has full traceability and credibility, as well as a demonstrable climate impact.

Camillo Rossotto, Chief Public Affairs & ESG Officer Avolta, said: “We are taking a significant step forward towards decarbonising our shipments and route transportations.”

“This agreement represents the starting point of the transitioning to biofuel for ocean freight which will contribute to decarbonising our logistic emission. Our company's commitment to sustainability is firm and long-term and, as proof of this, we are planning to increase the volume of containers transported using biofuel, advancing in the sustainable and low-emission transportation industry."

Miguel Ángel de la Torre, director of maritime transport at DB Schenker in Iberia, said: "Our mission is to help, facilitate, and guide our customers in the sustainable transformation, and on this occasion, we are doing so by offering this biofuel so that they can convert their freight transport into low-emission transport.”

“In this way, our customer Avolta is not only pioneering and helping to reduce emissions but is also ahead of the new regulations and associated benefits that will be tightened in the coming years.”


Photo credit: DB Schenker
Published: 24 June, 2024

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LNG Bunkering

MAN Energy Solutions rejoins SEA-LNG coalition

‘MAN ES, alongside other members of the SEA-LNG coalition, are making great strides in tackling methane slip in engine technologies where it still exists,’ says Peter Keller, SEA-LNG chairman.





MAN Energy Solutions rejoins SEA-LNG

Global multi-sector industry coalition SEA LNG on Thursday (20 June) announced that MAN Energy Solutions (MAN ES) will rejoin its coalition.  

As a provider of flexible and powerful propulsion solutions for LNG marine applications, SEA LNG said MAN ES caters to the growing demands of the shipping industry for LNG propulsion and equipment across dual fuel LNG-powered ships, LNG carriers, FRSUs, LNG feeder and bunker vessels, as well as for gas supply infrastructure. All MAN ES technology is fully compatible with net-zero biomethane and e-methane.

“MAN ES’s technical expertise adds to the technical skills and experience of SEA-LNG members, already achieving reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. MAN ES’s two-stroke high-pressure engine technology is one of those delivering virtually no methane slip in the LNG combustion process today,” it said.

In addition, MAN ES is making significant progress in eradicating methane slip in its four-stroke engines. Over the last ten years, MAN ES has already been able to halve methane slip in its four-stroke gas engines and is aiming for a further 20% reduction by continuously improving the combustion process.

MAN ES's IMOKAT II project has secured investment from the German Federal Ministry for Economics and Climate Action to develop an after-treatment technology to further reduce methane slip from its four-stroke engines, ultimately aiming for a 70% reduction of methane emissions at 100% load.  

Stefan Eefting, Senior Vice President and Head of MAN PrimeServ Germany at MAN Energy Solutions, said: “While shipping remains the most environmentally-friendly form of transport, the many vessels powered by our technology means that MAN Energy Solutions has a special responsibility to help move the industry to net-zero; we are very happy to work with like-minded partners in achieving this.”

“Our unique ability to assess the future-fuel mix is, in great part, based on our dual-fuel engine development, which promotes LNG and other alternative green fuels that have a key role to play on the path to decarbonisation.” 

Peter Keller, SEA-LNG chairman, said: “The shipping industry’s decarbonisation drive is at a tipping point as global and regional regulations begin to impact shipowners financially.”

“As these regulatory changes continue to be felt, LNG as a marine fuel, and its decarbonisation pathway through liquified biomethane and e-methane, offers the most practical and realistic solution. The LNG solution is playing a critical role in enabling emissions reductions, starting today.”

“If we want to continue to unlock this pathway’s potential, we need the right expertise and MAN ES’s experience and insights will be critical to ensuring LNG, biomethane and e-methane firmly take their place in the basket of alternative marine fuels.”

Keller continued: “We are proud to represent the entire LNG value chain, and the addition of MAN ES only adds to our roster of industry-leading first movers to promote the LNG pathway. In particular, MAN ES, alongside other members of the SEA-LNG coalition, are making great strides in tackling methane slip in engine technologies where it still exists. With constant advances in technology, we are confident the issue of methane slip can be solved within this decade.” 


Photo credit: MAN Energy Solutions
Published: 24 June, 2024

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