Biofuel is key to decarbonizing shipping, but challenges remain, says DNV

In its latest white paper, Biofuels in Shipping, classification society DNV reports that the flexibility of biofuels can allow the shipping industry to accelerate its journey to decarbonization while maintaining operational efficiencies. However, current production capacity limitations may affect short-term supply and lead to strong competition with other sectors.

DNV noted that the current global sustainable biofuel production capacity is approximately 11 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) per year and projects that by 2050 a sustainable and economically viable biofuel supply in the range of 500 to 1300 Mtoe per year can be achieved .

However, in order to fully decarbonize shipping through the use of biofuels in combination with energy efficiency measures, an annual supply of 250 Mtoe of sustainable biofuels is required by 2050, according to DNV. This would account for 20-50% of potential global production.

The classification society also pointed out that regulatory developments such as the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) provide a strong incentive for biofuel adoption, making both biofuels and biomass in high demand in various sectors aiming for decarbonization.

Eirik Ovrum, Principal Adviser at DNV Environment Advisor, commented: “Biofuels are expected to play an important role in decarbonising shipping. However, existing limitations in production capacity and competition from other sectors are likely to affect the short-term supply of the maritime industry.”

“Before biofuels can reach their full potential, a significant build-up of sustainable production capacity is required. Therefore, the goal of decarbonising shipping must be achieved in combination with energy efficiency measures and the use of other low-carbon fuel alternatives.”

Earlier this year, Sanjay Kuttan, chief technology officer at the Global Center for Maritime Decarbonisation, said during a DNV Maritime webinar, “Biofuels are actually a low-hanging fruit when it comes to infrastructure compatibility.” While infrastructure isn’t an issue, it needs to be policy gaps to be closed to allow for wider biofuel adoption.”

In summary, biofuels have the potential to play an important role in decarbonising shipping, but their viability depends on the industry’s ability to address the remaining challenges.

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