Two other shipping companies, ONE and Eastern Pacific Shipping, recently completed successful biofuel trials on their vessels in service. The appeal of biofuels, which are made from waste and residues such as used cooking oil, is that they can be used with existing propulsion systems and, although not not an absolute solution, offer a short-term alternative to reduce emissions from a wide range of ships.
Ocean Network Express (ONE) conducted its test in conjunction with Mitsui OSK Lines loading biofuel supplied by GoodFuels in the Netherlands aboard the 62,953 dwt MOL experience, a 14-year-old boxship with a carrying capacity of 4,800 TEUs. The fuel was loaded in Rotterdam in November and the test was carried out as the ship made a transatlantic crossing.
Similarly, the 47,377 dwt Eastern Pacific tanker Pacific Beryl, which is an 11-year-old vessel, also loaded 254 metric tons of biofuel in Rotterdam from GoodFuels. Carrying a cargo of 41,000 metric tonnes, the MR tanker completed an 11-day Atlantic crossing using biofuel to power its main engine.
Speaking at an IMO symposium on low-carbon and zero-carbon alternative fuels, Cyril Ducau, CEO of Eastern Pacific, details the test, including preparations and results. Ducau discussed EPS’ investment in alternative fuels, ranging from LNG to LPG and ethane, exploring dual-fuel vessels with the goal of doing what they can to reduce emissions now while taking account operational and commercial limitations.
The highlights of the biofuel test and its results were that the tanker made the crossing with no noticeable difference in engine performance. CO2 emissions were reduced by 70 metric tons per day, achieving zero main engine emissions and negligible overall emissions as conventional fuel was used for auxiliaries.
The two disadvantages of using biofuel included a 10% high fuel consumption, which Ducau attributed to the alternative fuel’s lower viscosity, flow value, and calorific value. Also, when asked, he acknowledged higher NOx (oxides of nitrogen) emissions with the biofuel, although he said they were still awaiting data from the engine manufacturer MAN.
Several challenges were also cited in preparing for the use of biofuels. Eastern Pacific worked with the crew aboard the tanker to prepare them to handle the alternative as well as with their flag state, classification society and engine manufacturer. They also had to clean the ship’s tanks to prepare for fuel and ensure there were no contaminants in the fuel system.
“There is no perfect solution today,” Ducau said of alternative fuels. He said: “We should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good in this quest,” noting that companies would otherwise stop short of contributing to ongoing efforts to reduce emissions. Highlighting the 100% sustainable nature of the biofuel and the ability to use it with older and existing vessels, Ducau was positive about the trial results, with price and availability considerations weighing on future use.
ONE also reported a positive result from its test trip. “The success of this trial led to the verification of the availability of various leading alternative marine fuels,” said Michihiko Nakano, general manager of MOL’s Bunker Business Division.
Biofuels are considered carbon neutral because the carbon dioxide absorbed by the source of the biomass is equal to the carbon dioxide released when the fuel is burned, notes the ONE. According to GoodFuels, biofuels are virtually free of sulfur oxides and offer an 80-90% “well-to-tailpipe” C02 reduction compared to fossil fuel equivalents.
Recently, MSC announced that it would also start biofuel trials as it explored alternative fuels and Volkswagen and BMW announced that car transporters carrying their vehicles would start using biofuels. Last spring, Stena Bulk undertook a 10-day trial voyage, using biofuels aboard the 50,000 dwt tanker MR Immortal Stena and later announced that depending on availability, it would begin integrating biofuel into its operations.