Sustainable bio-path towards decarbonization | Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide

The shipping industry is facing a pressing challenge: the need to decarbonise and reduce its impact on climate change. As regulators push for stricter environmental standards, the use of biofuels in shipping has emerged as a promising solution. Biofuels, such as methane, methanol, and fuel oils derived from biomass, offer a convenient and potentially carbon-neutral way for the maritime sector to achieve its decarbonisation goals.Biofuels have gained traction due to their drop-in capability, allowing them to mix with existing fossil fuel counterparts. This flexibility appeals to shipowners as it offers a cost-effective approach to carbon reduction without necessitating substantial capital investments. By leveraging the carbon-neutral properties of biofuels, shipping can significantly contribute to global decarbonisation efforts and mitigate its impact on climate change.

The findings presented in DNV’s Biofuels in Shipping white paper suggest that biofuels can play a significant role in the decarbonisation of the shipping industry. However, in the short-term, there are limitations on the production capacity of advanced biofuels, which may restrict their supply to the shipping sector. Furthermore, as other industries also strive to adopt biofuels for decarbonisation, competition for sustainable biomass resources may arise, potentially affecting the availability of biofuels for shipping.

At present, DNV calculates the global production capacity for sustainable biofuels stands at approximately 11 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) per year. However, DNV projects this capacity will increase to 23 Mtoe per year by 2026. Considering stringent sustainability criteria, the estimated sustainable and economically viable supply of biofuels could reach 500-1,300 Mtoe per year by 2050.

This would account for 20-50% of total potential supply in 2050, said DNV.

Sustainability and capacity

The class society said it is important to address two critical aspects that impact the contribution of biofuels to shipping’s decarbonisation. The first is sustainability. The sustainability of biofuels depends on the feedstock used and the production process. Strict sustainability measures, in line with regulations like the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive II (RED II), must be implemented to ensure the protection of high-carbon stock forests and avoid negative environmental impacts.

The second is production capacity. While the current global production capacity for advanced biofuels is projected to increase, scaling up production remains crucial, said DNV. The utilisation of advanced biomass sources, particularly forestry and wood industry residues, shows promise for expanding biofuel production.

The maritime industry has conducted numerous trials of biofuels onboard ships over the past few decades. Bio-methanol and bio-LNG, with similar properties to their fossil-based counterparts, offer drop-in capability without modifications to existing vessels, provided the necessary onboard equipment is installed. However, for biodiesels and bioliquids used as replacements for fuel oils and distillates, drop-in capability depends on factors like feedstock and production processes, necessitating a case-by-case evaluation.

said Eirik Ovrum, principal consultant in DNV Environment Advisory and co-author of the biofuels white paper. “Dialogue should be held with engine manufacturers and equipment suppliers to make sure that there are no compatibility issues with certain biofuels. Seafarers and other personnel should be provided with relevant training related to the application of biofuels.”

Biofuels are already helping to decarbonise other sectors, such as cooking, water and space heating, timber, pulp and paper production, and road transport.

Slow uptake

Biofuel use in shipping has so far been very low. Before 2022, use was limited to demonstrations, pilots and trials. However, in 2022, use accelerated with reports of around 930,000 tonnes of blended biofuel being bunkered in Singapore and Rotterdam.

“Blended biofuels typically consist of around 30% biofuel so we concluded that these figures from Singapore and Rotterdam accounted for around 280,000 tonnes of pure biofuels,” said Ovrum. “Whilst this might seem like a large number, it still accounts for just 0.1% of total maritime fuel consumption of 280 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) per year.”

Therefore, while biofuels hold great promise for decarbonising shipping, it is unlikely that they will be the sole solution for achieving zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the future, said DNV. “In the short-term, there are limitations on production capacity of advanced biofuels that may limit the supply to shipping, and a large-scale building out of production capacity is needed. In the longer-term, depending on the extent to which other industries use bioenergy as a pathway to decarbonisation, there could be limitations on the availability of sustainable biomass to produce marine biofuels.”

“We are already seeing progress in the uptake of biofuels in shipping and we predict significant growth in the years ahead,” added Ovrum.

This means combining biofuels with more energy efficiency measures as well as developing the infrastructure for other carbon-neutral fuels.”
Source: Baltic Exchange

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