GCMD, partners launch $18M drop-in biofuels pilot project

Singapore-based Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) is leading a consortium of 18 industry partners in a drop-in biofuels pilot project aimed at establishing an assurance framework for ensuring the supply chain integrity of current and future green marine fuels.

Illustration. Courtesy of GCMD

The consortium has allocated $18 million for the project that will help to shape national and international standards of biofuels bunkering and lower the barrier to their wider adoption to reduce greenhouse (GHG) emissions from a lifecycle perspective, said Lynn Loo, CEO of GCMD.

The pilot will commence on 1 August 2022 and is expected to take 12 to 18 months to complete.

As described, the project seeks to establish an industry-wide assurance framework that ensures supply chain transparency of drop-in biofuels whose applicability can be extended to future drop-in fuels, such as bio-LNG, bio-methanol and green ammonia, when they become available in meaningful quantities.

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The ship owners, charterers and operators participating in this pilot project represent approximately 2,300 vessels across the container, tanker and bulker segments, and are responsible for transporting 8.4 million TEUs or 80.6 million DWT globally.

With 12 vessels bunkering at three ports across three continents, the learnings from these route-based pilots will support the green corridors framework that was put forth by the Clydebank Declaration at COP26 in October 2021, of which 24 states are signatories­ including Singapore, the Netherlands and the US where bunkering ports for this pilot project reside.

The vessels in the pilot are all equipped with two-stroke engines from German manufacturer MAN Energy Solutions (MAN ES).

Said to be the first of its kind in extent and complexity, the project wants to optimise the entire supply chain of bunker fuels by building on the learning of past shipboard trials involving biofuels.

The pilot project will start with fuel blends involving existing biofuels, such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and fatty acid methyl esters (FAME) blended with either very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) or marine gas oil (MGO) in blends up to 30% biofuels (B30).

Then, the authenticity of sustainable biofuels will be validated through molecular verification tests conducted on fuel samples that are collected at numerous identified points along the supply chain. This will be achieved by using BunkerTrace’s digital and synthetic DNA tracing products to track marine fuels from production to vessel propulsion.

Hence, the pilot will address the traceability of drop-in biofuels from production, distribution, transportation, storage, and bunkering to shipboard application, providing end-to-end supply chain transparency.

According to Rahul Choudhuri, chairman of the CSC’s Technical Committee for Bunkering (Ambient Liquid Fuels), GCMD’s project scope involves a detailed quality assessment of biofuels, including ascertaining their shelf life and long-term stability.

Furthermore, GCMD will be leveraging this project to be the first in trialling and assessing the use of crude algae oil (CAO) as a marine fuel. CAO is a third-generation biofuel that promises a substantially reduced carbon footprint, but unlike HVO and FAME, its utility has not been tested nor has its supply chain established.

For this part of the pilot, GCMD has assembled fuel purchasers who are committed to trialling CAO and is inviting CAO producers with existing commercial production capacities to participate by reaching out to the centre by 22 August.

GCMD will link up CAO fuel producers with pre-identified fuel suppliers to test and provide CAO for this pilot on a commercial basis, the centre said.

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