Biofuels have the potential to be an economically viable fuel for the maritime industry, but more work is needed to ensure availability and technical compatibility.
Speaking to Seatrade Maritime News ahead of his presentation at CMA Shipping 2023, Michael D. Kass, PhD, of the Energy Science & Technology Directorate at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, said the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) evaluated biofuels against four main criteria : Greenhouse gas reduction potential, economic feasibility, technical feasibility and the availability of raw material resources.
While data on the amounts of biofuels that various inputs can produce is not yet available, the current availability of biofuels is a limiting factor for their adoption. The full volume potential of biofuel feedstocks is something US national labs plan to study this year, he added.
While recent biofuel demonstration studies and trials have used biofuels blended with heating oil in various ratios, Kass said that depending on the biofuel type, any barriers to using 100% biofuel as a bunker relate to cost and availability rather than technical limitations.
“Ships can currently run on 100% biofuel, but that depends on the type of biofuel. Most of the demonstration studies that I am aware of have used what we in the United States call biodiesel or FAME (fatty acid methyl ester),” Kass said.
The drop-in nature of biofuels is one of the fuel’s strengths for decarbonizing the maritime industry, along with its compatibility with existing infrastructure and generally low sulfur content.
“More work needs to be done on other types of biofuels, such as pyrolysis oils, to address issues such as stability, polymerization, etc. This is about the cost. We can certainly upgrade a pyrolysis product to solve these problems, but each step increases the cost. The key is finding the optimal balance between upgrade and engine performance and of course cost,” said Kass.
As with other future alternative fuels, the sheer size of the maritime industry and its fuel needs presents its own challenge.
“The other concern is availability: even if we wanted to run ships on clean biodiesel, there isn’t enough production to support its widespread use. This is an issue that is being explored by many groups,” Kass said.
At CMA Shipping 2023, Kass will present the results of a series of studies by US national laboratories on the technical and economic feasibility of biofuels for the shipping industry, from the blending properties of biofuels to their ability to reduce CO2 emissions and their competitiveness against heavy fuel oil Oil.
In a recent paper, co-authored by Kass, Techno-economic Analysis of Sustainable Biofuels for Marine Transportation, researchers found that biofuels offer the potential opportunity to decarbonize the maritime industry at competitive prices. Biofuel production also has good sustainability credentials when it comes to water consumption compared to oil refining.
The paper also pointed to the benefit of having multiple feedstocks and pathways to produce biofuels, reducing the risk of marine biofuel introductions in terms of feedstock availability and biorefinery economics.
Source: News Network
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