A new trend is taking over the marine shipping industry. With the aim of bringing down vessels Carbon emission, private companies and organizations are working on more efficient fuels and propulsion systems. Shipping companies have turned to the use of biofuels in the short and medium terms, using these as a gap filler until completely renewable sources will be economically available.

First generation

Biofuels have undergone several big changes over the years. Whilst the first generation of eco-friendlier fuels like bioethanol and biodiesel derived from agricultural crops were promising, they used the same raw materials as in the food industry, like corn and vegetable oils.

The second generation of biodiesel, which is where we are right now, uses lignocellulosic feedstocks derived from byproducts of forests, agricultural, used oil, urban wastes and food industries. The materials used in the second generation are all treated and disposed of as wastes.

Third generation, The goal is to integrate the second generation biofuels and possibly completely take over fossil fuels.

In the future, third generation biofuels will be derived from specifically engineered farming, produced in desertic or even sea environments. Promising candidates are algae

Picture: Biofuel Pipeline

Given the current propulsion system constraints and infrastructure of the second generation biofuels, drop-in fuels have become a short and mid term viable alternative in the reduction of carbon emissions, given their simplicity in integrating with the existing infrastructure.

Drop-in biofuels are defined as liquid bio-hydrocarbons and are fully integratable with the existing petroleum infrastructure. The most common biofuel adaptable to the existing marine diesel engines, are derived from animal fats (tallow) and vegetable oils, which needs to be refined through a hydroprocessing procedure. In general, drop-in biofuels for the Maritime shipping sector requires less quality products compared to the road and aviation sectors.

Big shipping companies have started integrating these biofuels blends in their operations. B30 biofuel has been a major candidate given the simplicity of use and engine manufacturers recommendation. This is a biofuels blend produced by renewable raw materials, with a 30% palm oil in it.

The drop-in of B30 allows to reduce CO2 emission by as much as 25%, complying with EU fuel restrictions.

Picture: CO2 reduction

The most recent example of using biofuels in shipping operations has seen the D’Amico shipping company working with ABS, Lr Fobas, Lloyd’s Register, Man Energy Solutions, RINA, Registro Liberiano and Trafigura, to certify all of its long range ships to use these fuels. The company has now achieved certification to use B30 blend in all of its larger vessels, and are now working on certifying the rest of the fleet.

As right now the goal in front of us is the decarbonization and the lowering of CO2 emissions, presently biofuels are a viable solution to decreasing the amount of Carbon footprint released by the maritime shipping industry sector and will involve a variety of players like refineries, engine manufacturers, ship classification organizations and ship owners.

These changes will need thorough professional know-how on shore side by the shipping agents, to give and provide to all concerned parties what is requested by relevant port authorities to be approved when approaching port in using new types of fuels.