Understanding the challenges for alternative fuel types in the race to decarbonisation in Maritime.
Maritime transport remains a major contributor to air pollution through its emissions – as discussed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in 2021. To address this issue in the race to achieve decarbonisation in the maritime industry, the adoption of various alternative marine fuel and renewable energy sources has been recognized as a crucial strategy for many years.
Aderco has been dedicated to facilitating the transition from current fuels by actively reducing emissions in Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) and Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) while simultaneously enhancing fuel efficiency. We have demonstrated over the years an unwavering commitment to improving fossil-derived fuels, but we also share a deep desire to support the transition to alternative fuels and help the industry reduce its overall impact.
We've been proactively exploring future fuel possibilities and offering support for their integration into the mainstream. An example of this is our work looking at overcoming hurdles like stability issues associated with Biofuels. Where Aderco's solution is smoothing the transition to alternative fuels, we're also well placed in observing there are some standout key challenges the industry faces in the transition process.
So, we thought we'd take a moment to look at alternative fuels and summarise these challenges to help show where Aderco could support and help our industry explore their options to become greener.
Here is a list of the current fuels being reviewed in 2023.
- Liquefied natural gas (LNG)
- Liquefied biogas (LBG)
- Hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO)
- Wind power and solar power
One of the major challenges currently is the development of the infrastructure to produce, store, distribute and to refuel alternative fuels. Building the necessary infrastructure, such as bunkering facilities for liquefied natural gas (LNG) or hydrogen requires significant investment, Risk assessments, safety design and coordination.
Bureau Veritas states that certain biofuels can use the existing infrastructure and transfer systems designed for #LNG, making them compatible across a range of ports, from the North Sea to the Black Sea. These ports offer accessible waste facilities to support the use of biofuels in a safe manner.
On the other hand, methanol, and ethanol face limitations in terms of port infrastructure and bunkering vessels. Trucks are used to transport and supply fuel to ships powered by methanol and ethanol due to the lack of dedicated port infrastructure.
While hydrogen production and storage facilities are under development, they encounter significant technical and safety challenges. However, solutions providers are actively working on enhancing storage technology. Currently, a prototype of a hydrogen bunkering vessel is undergoing testing.
Ammonia, being a regularly transported cargo, benefits from well-developed transfer systems. Some ports already have storage facilities for ammonia, but the availability of ammonia bunkering vessels is still limited.
Availability and accessibility.
Ensuring a reliable and accessible supply of #AlternativeFuels is crucial. Currently, the availability of alternative fuels such as LNG, #Biofuels, or ammonia is limited compared to conventional marine fuels like heavy fuel oil. Expanding the production and distribution networks for these fuels is necessary to meet the demand of the maritime sector.
A good insight into how this is developing can be tracked through classification societies such as DNV in their Alternative Fuels Insight (AFI) platform, or follow Lloyds Register Fuel for thought series. One thing worth noting, that in some fuels like Bio fuels, long term storage could spoil the fuel as it oxidises, which is harmful to engines over time. Aderco treats this harmful oxidation neutralizing the harmful acidity that increases in long term storage of bio fuels.
Alternative fuels, especially those at the early stage of development, may be more expensive than conventional fuels. The higher upfront cost of transitioning to alternative fuels can pose economic challenges for ship owners and operators. Overcoming these cost barriers is essential for the widespread adoption of alternative fuel types.
The Global Maritime Forum comments that alternative fuel prices are coming down with the increased demand and growing infrastructure for certain types, as mentioned above but it's worth noting that they comment on research showing an expected increase for HFO and VLSFO.
Ships are designed and optimized for specific fuel types, and transitioning to alternative fuels may require modifications to engines and onboard systems. Ensuring the technical compatibility of vessels with alternative fuels and retrofitting existing ships can be complex and costly. However due to many ships made with todays technology, retrofitting is a necessity to move forward to continue the expected life span of the vessel, whilst complying with #NetZero targets, much like we saw for 2020 and the retrofit of many scrubbers.
Different alternative fuels have varying safety considerations, such as handling, storage and fire safety. Developing and implementing safety regulations and guidelines specific to alternative fuels is crucial to address any potential risks and ensures the safe operation of vessels.
Energy density and range limitations.
Some alternative fuels have lower energy density compared to conventional marine fuels, which may result in reduced range or increases fuel consumption. Overcoming these limitations and optimising the energy efficiency of ships using alternative fuels is an ongoing challenge.
A great example of energy density can be found in Statista’s comparison chart, but something that Aderco helps with is increases fuel efficiency in current fuels. Increasing efficiency is a focus point for us so that vessels gain more out of their fuels and use less, reducing environmental impact.
Scalability and market demand.
Scaling up the production of alternative fuels to meet the growing demand of the maritime industry is a significant challenge. Investments and incentives are required to encourage the market demand for alternative fuels and drive the necessary scale for market demand.
It is certainly an exciting time for the race to which fuel will become a dominant player in the market to meet the demands of net zero. Addressing these challenges will require collaboration and coordination among industry leaders, governments, research institutions and technology providers. Aderco is certainly one of the transition champions with our fuel conditioners and we intend to continue this into the new era. Overcoming these obstacles will be crucial to successfully decarbonise the maritime sector and achieve sustainable shipping in the future.