While it has been a tumultuous past year with the COVID-19 pandemic, the transformation of the marine fuels market continued at pace.
The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) decarbonisation targets of a 50% reduction in emissions from 2008 levels by 2050, and a minimum reduction in carbon intensity per transport usage of 40% by 2030, compared with 2008 levels, remains the main driver behind the production and development of ‘future fuels’.
There can be no doubt that the next decade will bring an increasingly diverse marine fuel landscape, as growing demand for economically viable low and zero carbon future fuels becomes exponential.
However, the shipping industry is historically conservative to change. With this in mind, driving a significant uptake of future fuels relies on a number of critical factors to inspire confidence in ship owners and operators, who may understandably be reluctant to transition.
Firstly, the fuels must be financially viable if they are to be realistically considered in a competitive market.
Secondly, the fuel supply infrastructure and appropriate standards needs to be in place, available in all major bunkering locations and mature enough to accelerate transition.
One such existing future fuel that has made significant progress in the shipping industry is biofuel.
In reality, power stations using engines similar to ships have been burning a variety of biofuels for decades, yet its prevalence in the maritime industry is still relatively new. However, plateauing fuel demand, tightening environmental regulation and overseas competition has meant that biofuel production, investment, and uptake, is set to escalate.
Most recently, and among a host of partnerships, Uniper Energy and Neutral Fuels notably joined forces to provide biofuels at the port of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates.
Similarly, reputable sources, such as the Finnish Maritime Industry, have also stated that biofuels ‘could also use the existing bunkering infrastructure with minor modifications, and, therefore, show a strong potential to replace part of the fuel mix’.
This tangible development, combined with comments from influential leaders in the industry, such as major biofuels company GoodFuels, which stated that by 2030, biofuel will be “the biggest alternative fuel in the world”, is evidence that this is a segment with monumental potential.
Auramarine views biofuels as one of the most feasible and effective low carbon fuel options.
Wider industry perspectives and advancements, coupled with 45 years of expertise, designing and manufacturing fuel supply systems for a wide range of fuels, alongside independent research, has led it to conclude that the fuel will play a pivotal role in the future marine fuel market and decarbonisation of shipping.
Collaboration key to R&D
To further support ship owners and operators in the transition, and aid the development of future fuels, Auramarine recently joined the BioFlex project – a three-year collaborative study funded by Business Finland, VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and enacted by participating companies that included Fortum, Neste and Wärtsilä.
The collaboration aims to determine the most ecologically and economically sustainable way to evolve the marine energy supply chain and replace fossil fuels, through comparing different methods of industrially producing fuel oil from components.
The components are varied and include waste plastics or biomass and harvest residues from forestry and agriculture. The aim is the creation of cost-effective biofuels for the marine market.
Working alongside research centres, fuel suppliers and engine manufactures, Auramarine will harness its expertise to progress the use of biofuels as a viable new source of energy.
For example, with biofuels being corrosive and wearing on metals, the company is applying its expertise to ensure that every element of material used in a vessel’s fuel supply units is analysed and examined to ensure a safe environment for the fuel. It is this attention to detail and providing assurance that all bases have been covered that will be the foundation in enhancing ship owner confidence and drive widespread uptake.
This is especially important with vessels being unique in design.
Taking this into account, it is critical that ship owners and operators are able to easily access expert counsel as well as additional technologies to support and manage the change. Otherwise, the company is at risk of introducing biofuels to a vessel – and critical parts such as fuel supply systems – that not only have the potential to cause significant negative impact on the safety, efficiency, and continuity of their operations, but on the reputation and integrity of biofuel as a viable future fuel.
No stone left unturned
Like many opinion formers in the industry, Auramarine views biofuels as one of the most feasible future fuels Fundamentally, and to alleviate ship owner anxiety and reticence, it is believed that a thorough and consultative approach is required – one that consists of widespread industry collaboration, expert advice, counsel, and on-hand support. From global bunkering capabilities to the safe delivery of products from fuel supply systems to the engine inlet, every element of the infrastructure and technology required to deliver a viable biofuels supply chain must be nurtured if we are to fulfil the industry’s true potential for decarbonisation.