The Role of Sustainable Biofuels in the Decarbonization of Shipping

Sustainable Shipping Initiative

This report outlines the findings of a stakeholder consultation process aimed at exploring the potential role of biofuels in the decarbonization of the shipping sector. It concludes that the role of biofuels depends largely on a variety of factors, including sustainability, availability, feedstock competition and allocation in different industries, technical potential of alternative technologies, among others.

Availability was highlighted as an issue as it was deemed hard to predict and identify the exact share of feedstock demand by various industries. The predicted 70 PJ of feedstock available in 2050 is not considered to be enough to cover the requirements from the various sectors. The report also emphasizes that priority could be given to different sectors depending on the availability of alternative options. While aviation would be the highest priority, shipping would be an “intermediate case with alternative technically feasible routes to decarbonization (e.g. ammonia)”. However, it was pointed out that it is still unclear “how to balance the long-term [ammonia based] decarbonization with short term options such as biofuels. It was pointed out that “there is a need to understand whether biofuels could be a transitional bridge to ammonia or whether this would result in a wasted investment”.

Other key messages include:

  • Biofuels can be used as drop-in fuels with minor modifications on board.
  • To bring biofuels a reality at scale, significant restructuring of fuel production, distribution and logistics systems is necessary.
  • A scale up needs market incentives putting sustainability and carbon benefits at the front. This could come “in the form of IMO led short-term policy measures and/or costumers demanding and paying a premium for lower carbon supply chains”.
  • An option to introduce biofuels in shipping is “to use bio-feedstocks from waste and residue rather than from purpose-grown energy crops”.
  • “Until the aviation and bio-plastic sectors scale up their use, current availability of sustainable bio-feedstock could be used in shipping. This adoption of sustainable biofuels by the shipping sector could help kick-start early action while providing a clear market signal, giving confidence to investors in the bio-economy”.

More information on the Sustainable Shipping Initiative can be found here

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