Maritime Shipping Companies Successfully Trial Biofuel

Several promising trials using biofuels to power large scale shipping vessels recently been completed, providing a potential short term way for the shipping industry to reduce carbon emissions.

The biofuel supplier GoodFuels reported that Ocean Network Express (ONE), as well as Eastern Pacific Shipping, had recently completed trans-Atlantic crossings using biofuel to power their ships, with no noticeable difference reported in engine performance.

This was seen as promising, as by using biofuels the carbon dioxide emissions of these ships were reduced by 70 metric tonnes per day, with the only emissions from the ship coming from auxiliaries.

The primary downsides that were found during these tests were higher consumption of fuel, with ten per cent more biofuel being used for the journey compared to heavy fuel oil (HFO), and a higher amount of nitrogen oxides being emitted from the engine.

As well as this, the two ships, both over a decade old, needed to have clean fuel tanks, use belt cleaners and required special training for the crew to know how to handle the new fuel source.

Despite this, the trial was primarily seen as a major success, showcasing that sustainable biofuels could be used with existing ships with little to no modification and that the only considerations that would affect potential future use being cost and availability of high-quality biofuels.

As well as these most recent trials, GoodFuels has also helped BMW and Volkswagen trial biofuels on their car carrier vessels, and Stena Bulk had a successful trial of biofuels in Spring 2020.

Why Use Biofuels For Sea Freight?

Sea Freight has a tremendously large carbon footprint, with almost 3 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions being attributed to the industry.

The biggest reason for this is that due to the scale of sea freight, many if not most shipping companies use heavy fuel oil, the most polluting and least refined form of engine fuel available.

Such is the polluting effect of HFO that it is banned on routes that travel in the Arctic Ocean.

The International Maritie Organisation has agreed to draft measures that will force sea freight to be more energy-efficient and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases.

Biofuels, as well as less polluting refined fuels and liquid petroleum gas (LPG), have been suggested as short term solutions.

The cost has been described as the primary factor in whether they will become as widely adopted in sea freight as they have increasingly become for long-distance haulage.

Whilst biofuels can in some cases emit carbon dioxide, they are sustainable and carbon neutral across the lifecycle of fuel generation. The biomass that is used to create refined fuel captures carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

Other technologies are being developed in parallel to more sustainable biofuels which will further decrease the carbon footprint of the industry. These include hydrogen fuel cells, advance sail-based vessels and long-distance electric engines.

As these are being developed the industry has decided that it cannot stand still and switching to biofuels allows for a very quick sustainability gain.