European marine sector defends role of biofuels in decarbonizing shipping

EU regulation to go into effect in 2025 will require all ships to minimize the yearly average greenhouse gas emissions intensity

The marine industry is at the forefront of efforts to minimize greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the pursuit of a greener and more sustainable future, Valerie Ahrens, the global director of sustainable fuels at shipping organisation Bunker Holding Group has told Europe-based publisher Euroactiv in an opinion piece Wednesday, September 27.

The sector has been a major investor in renewable biofuels – particularly biodiesel and comes as the European Union prepares to revisit some of the guidelines surrounding permissible feedstocks amid a major push to boost production of sustainable aviation fuels (SAF).

In a key shift for the shipping sector, the European Union’s FuelEU Maritime regulation and the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) decarbonization agenda have set the stage for the next ten years, Ahrens acknowledged and “now it is time for action for the shipping sector.”

FuelEU Maritime is a new European regulation that will go into effect in 2025 and will require all ships carrying passengers or cargo to minimize the yearly average well-to-wake GHG intensity of energy used on board.

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), shipping is responsible for 2.9% of global GHG emissions.

The primary GHG intensity reduction targets are set to climb incrementally from 2% in 2025 to 80% in 2050, according to Ahrens – mirroring a similar requirement to cut emissions in the aviation space.

But, under Annex V of the Renewable Energy Directive (REDII), waste-based and advanced biodiesel achieve the “largest GHG savings” of all renewable transport fuels, Ahren’s said, with up to 90% emissions savings compared to fossil fuels.

As such, that has driven investment in biodiesels across the sector meaning “for obligated parties that need to reduce their emissions drastically today, biofuels could be a strategic tool in their fuel mix,” a move that has led the group to offer sustainable options in over 80 ports worldwide.

Demand for biofuels has increased in recent years since they can be combined with traditional fuel oils to provide an immediate answer to EU responsibilities and IMO requirements such as the Carbon Intensity Indicator (CII), which is a “decarbonization solution” for shipowners as it can be achieved without the need for large-scale capital investments.

Feedstock supply still a challenge

However, scaling up of biofuel volumes will require a broader approach to feedstock supply, an opportunity that will come with the release of the amended Annex IX of RED later this year, in which a series of additional feedstocks will be introduced for the manufacture of waste-derived biofuels.

The call to ensure waste-based and advanced biodiesel has a “key role to play to decarbonize the maritime transport sector”, however, that call comes as Bunker Fuel Group faces competition from mounting SAF mandates, which could drain feedstocks away from the marine and truck sector and can put at risk some of the investments that have been made.

Earlier this month, Japanese shipping firm Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Royal Dutch Shell to develop green bunker fuels.

The two companies said they would jointly focus on advancing “alternative maritime solutions” and the management of carbon emissions.

Meanwhile, in August the Gibraltar-based marine fuel supplier Peninsula confirmed that it had signed its first biofuel supply deal with Japanese shipping firm Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha, which at that time had already delivered 700 tonnes of used cooking oil-based methyl ester (UCOME)-based B24 marine biofuel to K Line’s oceangoing bulk vessel the M/V Cape Amal in Hong Kong on August 11.

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