Biofuels' ‘Significant’ Role for Shipping

UN COP25 Calls for 'Significant Results Now'

Biofuels could have “a significant role” in decarbonization of the shipping sector, offering a number of advantages for breakbulk shippers, according to research by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative.

The findings were announced as part of the recent UN Climate Change Conference (COP25) in Madrid, and suggest that biofuels derived from biomass may be an attractive option for the shipping sector globally.

“Last year, we identified biofuels may have a role to play in the short-term in our Zero-Emission Vessels 2030 study ... SSI’s latest report is the next chapter, investigating biofuels’ role in shipping’s decarbonization journey … This report will help maritime decision-makers evaluate biofuels to see if it is a suitable pathway for them and rightfully continue the discussion about zero carbon alternatives in maritime,” said Katharine Palmer, Lloyd’s Register’s global sustainability manager.

Supply-demand Constraints

Despite the positive outlook for biofuels painted in the recent SSI report, the fuel comes with a number of inherent risks for international breakbulk shipping, not least uncertainty over scalability and price volatility.

“Biofuels come with considerable risks related to the supply-demand constraints – and as a consequence also pose risks related to price – as well as carry the additional risk of good intentions resulting in perverse outcomes, for example, increasing carbon emissions,” the SSI said in a statement.

SSI’s research nonetheless indicates that in the short-term, biofuels may play a significant part in decarbonizing global trade, with data suggesting that sustainable biofuels are underutilized and could potentially meet greater shipping’s energy needs.

Economically Feasible Option

Headquartered in London, the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) is a multi-stakeholder initiative designed to help the industry make long-term plans for future success. Members include leading companies from around the world and industry associations such as the NGOs Forum for the Future and WWF.

“In 2018, SSI-commissioned research, which revealed that zero-emission vessels need to be entering the world’s fleet by 2030, citing advanced biofuels as one of the more economically feasible options … Through this inquiry we have canvassed a diverse range of perspectives, from a wide range of stakeholders,” said Andrew Stephens, SSI executive director.

The UN COP25 event took place in Madrid from Dec 2-13 and Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, president of the UN General Assembly called for “significant results now” and “urgency to act,” both at global and national levels.