Report: Biofuels the Most Affordable Zero-Emission Option for Shipping

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Advanced biofuels may represent the most affordable zero-emission alternative for the shipping industry, a report prepared for Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) finds.

The fact that biofuels can be used in a way that very closely mirrors current technology — i.e. through internal combustion — means that associated additional costs are kept to a minimum of the fuel price itself. Under the scenarios projected in this study, these costs are within the realm of acceptability for many in the industry.

However, biofuels may not be the answer to the question of decarbonization due to two important considerations — sustainability and availability.

The report, entitled “Zero Emission Vessels - What needs to be done?” and authored by Lloyds Register and UMAS, was geared to the needs and requirements of SSI members, who are mainly involved in deep-sea trades with containerships, bulk carriers and tankers.

“The report makes clear that the technology is with us today, but investment is needed both to bring the technology to scale and to encourage a wider take-up. The shipping industry will need multiple solutions, and investment for different technologies - not just biofuels - to reach beyond fuel efficiency to decarbonisation,” Stephanie Draper, Chief Change Officer for Forum for the Future and co-chair of the SSI, said.

The report also examines electric power and hydrogen fuel cells, and takes note of the upstream CO2 emissions which need to be resolved as these fuels will have to be judged on an environmental performance from “well to wake,” and not just on emissions from ships.

As shipping is now in concert with the Paris Agreement, the benefits of other land-based technologies and energy production should help to drive down upstream emissions for ships fuel, according to the report.

As a result of this report, the SSI are engaged in a deep-dive into biofuels in 2018 to assess the viability of biofuels for the world fleet.

“Biofuels represent a stepping stone to further emissions reduction,” Tom Holmer, General Manager of the SSI, pointed out.

“Alternative marine fuels provide a huge opportunity for creating value and finding sustainable solutions. The SSI will continue to look at the whole value chain and this report highlights that the next ten years will see huge changes in the way ships are fuelled,” Holmer added.

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