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Alternative Fuels

XFuel: Second-generation biofuels will unlock new possibilities in shipping’s green new era

Advanced biofuels allow shipowners, bunker suppliers, and port authorities to freely blend biofuel and non-biofuel bunkers to cut their emissions, says Dr Nicholas Bell, CEO of XFuel.

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The following is an article written by Dr Nicholas Ball, CEO of second-generation biofuel and refinery provider XFuel on the role second-generation biofuels can play in accelerating shipping’s decarbonisation. The article was shared with Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times:

Second-generation biofuels from sustainable waste feedstocks are urgently needed to accelerate shipping’s decarbonisation transition, and deliver a cost-effective and fast path to net-zero.

The shipping sector is increasingly recognising the importance of decarbonisation. However it still lacks a definitive pathway to reach it. Regulators, including the IMO and the EU, have set concrete emissions reduction targets – with even more ambitious targets expected in the coming years. At the same time, cargo owners are starting to put commercial pressure on shipowners and charterers to deliver low-carbon options today.

Yet, commercial shipping is widely recognised as one of the hardest sectors to decarbonise. According to a recent report by think tank Nordic West Office, entitled Maritime Transition Scenarios, on its current trajectory, the shipping industry will fail to meet the IMO targets of 50% CO2 reductions by 2050. It might meet Paris targets under the most optimistic of scenarios, but this isn’t guaranteed. 

This sentiment of “falling short of targets” appears consensual. In September, London-based energy consultants Argus Media warned that the upcoming Cop 27 was unlikely to speed up maritime emissions cuts. Equally, MAN Energy Solutions’ Chief Sales Officer Wayne Jones recently warned that the marine industry is moving too slowly in relation to decarbonisation, and encouraged regulatory bodies to adopt regulations that invite capital into the production of green fuels.

Indeed, if shipping is to reach zero carbon it will need new technology, which will require significant investment, particularly when it comes to fuels and scaling them up. The vast majority of mooted new fuels (such as hydrogen, ammonia or methanol) require new engines alongside an entire new global bunkering supply chain and infrastructure. 

Nicholas portrait

Flexible feedstocks and true sustainability 

A biofuel’s feedstock, or raw ingredient that is converted into fuel, dictates its commercial viability and its sustainability. Food crops have traditionally been used to create first-generation biofuels. While first gen biofuels have broadly helped to reduce transport GHG emissions over several decades, they possess clear limitations. 

Biofuels that use crops either require that food crops are replaced, or that more land is converted into farmland. This raises legitimate questions about their saleability. Increasing first-generation biofuel production to meet projected demand will not be possible without dramatically impacting food security or deforestation. 

This is where second-generation or advanced biofuels come in – low carbon fuels from abundant and sustainable waste feedstocks that can meet immediate demand with little or no need for adaptation, and without the risk of destabilising agricultural and forest systems.

So how do we scale advanced biofuels? A typical box ship will have the capacity to take on between 1.5 and 2 million gallons of bunkers. For a second-generation biofuel to be viable in the long term, a feedstock must therefore be available in large enough volumes in the right location to meet fuel demand (although there is also immense value for anything that can be used as a drop-in fuel and introduced gradually). 

Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) – currently the most available second-generation biofuel on the market –  highlights this concern. It is created through expensive hydrocracking or hydrogenation processes with vegetable oil or animal fats, which are not available in high enough quantities to represent a turnkey solution on a global scale. 

But there are other existing options, with availability that can be scaled to meet the industry’s demand. This has been our focus at XFuel – to develop  second-generation technology that is able to use a wide range of biomass waste as feedstock. This means that we are able to source abundant and sustainable waste from the manufacturing, construction, and agricultural sectors to use as feedstock. This waste can be sourced in virtually any coastal area, and does not threaten food security or contribute to environmental degradation.

A complete replacement 

The majority of biofuels available today either cannot be used as a complete replacement for traditional bunkers, or are costly to produce. This represents a major barrier to widespread adoption and commercialisation, and makes it difficult for ports, bunker suppliers, and shipowners to create an effective supply infrastructure. 

Moreover, the compatibility issues associated with many current biofuels often mean that traditional infrastructure cannot be used. For example, the corrosive nature of some often means that storage and transfer infrastructure must be replaced or adapted, requiring significant long-term investment. 

Yet, it is possible to create a biofuel that can be used as a complete replacement in existing engines and infrastructure at a competitive price to traditional VLSFO or ULSFO marine fuels. XFuel’s low carbon sustainable fuels achieve this, using a highly efficient and non energy-intensive biorefinery method to produce ‘drop in’ products that meet the specifications of a traditional fossil fuel i.e. ISO 8217:2017 for shipping. 

This low pressure, low heat process reduces the marginal cost of producing fuels (OPEX), making us price competitive and allowing our projects to have low CAPEX  requirements that deliver profitability for small and large projects alike.  

Second-generation biofuels can help the shipping sector meet its decarbonisation objectives today, without waiting on new technologies or massive global infrastructure projects. High-quality advanced biofuels allow shipowners, bunker suppliers, and port authorities to take a flexible and practical approach to cutting their emissions, freely blending biofuel and non-biofuel bunkers. It is paramount that the sector starts advancing towards a sustainable second-generation future as soon as possible. 

Related: Argus Media: Cop 27 unlikely to speed up maritime emissions cuts

 

Photo credit: XFuel
Published: 22 September, 2022

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Alternative Fuels

IUMI: How can liability and compensation regimes adapt to alternative bunker fuels and cargoes?

Existing international liability and compensation regimes do not fully cater to the changes that the use of alternative marine fuels will bring.

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Dangerous cargo

By Tim Howse, Member of the IUMI Legal & Liability Committee and Vice President, Head of Industry Liaison, Gard (UK) Limited

The world economy is transitioning, with industries across the board seeking to reduce their carbon footprint and embrace more sustainable practices. As part of this, there is a huge effort within our industry to look to decarbonise, using alternative fuels such as biofuel, LNG, LPG, ammonia, methanol, and hydrogen.

Until now there has been much focus on carbon emissions and operational risks associated with the use of alternative fuels. This includes increased explosivity, flammability, and corrosivity. An ammonia leak causing an explosion in port could result in personal injuries, not to mention property damage, air, and sea pollution. In addition, alternative fuels may not be compatible with existing onboard systems, increasing the risk of breakdowns and fuel loss resulting in pollution. Apart from these safety concerns, which particularly concern crew, air pollution and other environmental impacts need to be addressed.

However, the green transition also presents us with a separate regulatory challenge, which has received less attention so far. So, whilst carbon emissions and safety concerns are rightly on top of the agenda now, the industry also needs to prioritise the potential barriers in the legal and regulatory frameworks which will come sharply into focus if there is an accident.

If anything, historic maritime disasters like the Torrey Canyon spill in 1967, have taught us that we should look at liability and compensation regimes early and with a degree of realism to ensure society is not caught off-guard. With our combined experience, this is perhaps where the insurance industry can really contribute to the transition.

Currently, existing international liability and compensation regimes do not fully cater to the changes that the use of alternative fuels will bring. For example, an ammonia fuel spill would not fall under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Bunker Oil Pollution Damage (Bunkers Convention), potentially resulting in a non-uniform approach to jurisdiction and liability. Similarly, an ammonia cargo incident would not fall under the International Convention on Civil Liability for Oil Pollution Damage (CLC). Uncertainties may also exist in the carriage of CO2 as part of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) projects, which may be treated as a pollutant, with corresponding penalties or fines.

A multitude of questions will arise depending on what happens, where it happens, and the values involved, many of which may end up as barriers for would be claimants. How will such claims be regulated, will there be scope for limitation of liability, and would there be a right of direct action against the insurers? In the absence of a uniform international liability, compensation and limitation framework, shipowners, managers, charterers, individual crew, and the insurers may be at the mercy of local actions. Increased concerns about seafarer criminalisation (even where international conventions exist, ‘wrongful’ criminalisation does still occur) may emerge, creating another disincentive to go to sea.

When being carried as a cargo, the International Convention on Liability and Compensation for Damage in Connection with the Carriage of Hazardous and Noxious Substances by Sea (HNS), which is not yet in force, may resolve some of these issues for alternative fuels and CO2. However, until HNS comes into force, there will be no international uniformity to liability and compensation for the carriage of alternative fuels and CO2 as cargoes. This creates uncertainties for potential victims and their insurers, who may face increased risks and costs, due to the potential inability of existing regulations to provide protections.

The situation is even less clear in the case of bunkers. The rules for using alternative fuels as bunkers might require a separate protocol to HNS, a protocol to the Bunkers Convention, or a whole new convention specifically for alternative fuels.  Relevant considerations for the appropriate legislative vehicle include states’ preparedness to reopen the Bunkers Convention, the ability to conclude a protocol to HNS before it comes into force, and whether a multi-tier fund structure is needed for alternative fuels as bunkers (perhaps unnecessary because bunkers are usually carried in smaller quantities compared to cargoes).

Until then, what we are left with are the existing international protective funds, designed to respond at the highest levels to pollution claims resulting from an oil spill, without any similar mechanism in place to respond to a spill of alternative fuels, which are themselves so central to a green transition. Somewhat perversely, victims of accidents involving an oil spill may therefore enjoy better protections than victims of an alternative fuels spill.

In summary, while the use of alternative fuels will no doubt help to reduce the industry's carbon footprint, there are safety and practical hurdles to overcome. Stakeholders must also come together to find solutions to complex - and urgent, in relative terms - legal and regulatory challenges.

 

Photo credit: Manifold Times
Source:  International Union of Marine Insurance
Published: 13 June 2024

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Ammonia

Expert discusses technical considerations of using ammonia as marine fuel

Ammonia as bunker fuel poses significant safety challenges due to its toxicity and flammability, says Senior Marine Surveyor Muammer Akturk.

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Technical considerations of ammonia as marine fuel

Muammer Akturk, a Senior Marine Surveyor specialising in alternative bunker fuels, on Monday (10 June) published an article on technical considerations of using ammonia as a marine fuel in his Alternative Marine Fuels Newsletter.

The article dives into the use of ammonia as a marine fuel, focusing on the safety and technical considerations necessary for its implementation.

Ammonia is recognised for its potential as a zero-carbon fuel, making it an attractive option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry. However, it poses significant safety challenges due to its toxicity and flammability.

Key points discussed include:

  1. Safety Measures: The importance of stringent design and operational safety measures to prevent ammonia releases and mitigate risks during both normal and emergency conditions is emphasized. This includes the need for gas dispersion analyses and the use of safety systems like gas detectors and alarms
  2. Regulatory Framework: The article reviews the latest regulations and guidelines developed to ensure the safe use of ammonia as a marine fuel. This includes the IACS Unified Requirement H1, which provides a framework for controlling ammonia releases on vessels
  3. Engineering Considerations: Technical aspects such as fuel storage, handling systems, and the role of risk assessments in identifying potential hazards and implementing preventive measures are detailed
  4. Human Factors: The article also considers the human factors approach to safety, emphasizing training and the importance of designing systems that account for human errorOverall, the article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges and solutions associated with using ammonia as a marine fuel, highlighting the importance of safety and regulatory compliance in its adoption.

Editor’s note: The full article can be found at the link here.

 

Published: 13 June 2024

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Methanol

Green Marine Fuels Trading, Vopak team up on green methanol port storage facilities

Green Marine Fuels revealed a strategic collaboration with Vopak to secure necessary port storage to accommodate green methanol supply in Shanghai, Tianjin and later in Singapore.

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Green Marine Fuels Trading, Vopak team up on green methanol port storage facilities

Green Marine Fuels Trading on Tuesday (11 June) announced a strategic collaboration with Royal Vopak Terminals in the key ports of Shanghai Caojing and Tianjin Lingang, China. 

The firm said the milestone agreement marked the next phase of methanol supply chain infrastructure expansion for Green Marine Fuels Trading, securing necessary port storage capacity to accommodate projected supply of green methanol from Chinese business partners.  

Green Marine will be undertaking a similar cooperation plan with Vopak Singapore as well. 

Gavin McGrath, Director at Green Marine, said: “This is an important milestone in the evolution of Green Marine Fuels Trading and further underscores our preparedness to supply green methanol to the imminent green transition within the shipping industry.” 

“Our leadership in the global methanol marine fuel sector uniquely positions us to bridge the gap between methanol producers and buyers, with storage and supply infrastructure being a crucial link in the chain.”

“We eagerly anticipate leveraging our expertise in these domains to enrich the Shanghai and Tianjin green port and marine fuel ecosystems.”

Manifold Times previously reported Vopak signing a strategic cooperation agreement with the Vice Mayor of Tianjin delegation to support the repurposing of Vopak Tianjin's infrastructure for new energies, including green methanol, sustainable aviation fuel, and potentially ammonia and liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC).

Vopak said Tianjin Port Group will work closely with Vopak to develop a green methanol bunkering service solution.

Related: Tianjin Port Group and Vopak partner to develop green methanol bunkering service

 

Photo credit: Green Marine Group
Published: 12 June 2024

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