Singapore and the multi-fuel future

Singapore has maintained its vast dominance in the global bunkering scene while preparing for a new fuel future in which LNG, biofuels and methanol appear as key alternative fuels for the remainder of the 2020s, with ammonia coming into play later.

Of the world’s top 17 bunker sites, accounting for 61% of the 230 million tonne global market, Singapore held a 36% market share last year, according to data from bunker supplier Minerva. Second-placed Amsterdam-Rotterdam-Antwerp (ARA) region had an 11% share, while Fujairah took the podium with a 6% share, underscoring the Southeast Asian country’s extreme dominance when it comes to supplying the global merchant fleet.

This year has been a solid year for bunker sales in Singapore. Monthly sales hit more than a five-year high in May. Sales increased for the third consecutive month to 4.52 million tons, up 6.2% month-on-month, data from Singapore’s Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) showed.

Fast reactions

“At Monjasa, we continue to see Singapore advancing the global shipping industry on the most pressing issues. The past year in particular has demonstrated Singapore’s commitment to the transition to green shipping,” says Morten Ostergaard Jacobsen, who heads the bunker supplier’s Asia operations. Jacobsen particularly commended the MPA for the way it communicates fuel developments directly to key stakeholders at regional and international levels.

After last year’s fuel pollution scandal, the MPA acted quickly. The MPA switched from physical documents to electronic bunker delivery notes this year and is pursuing a project in 2024 to digitally record oil flows using mass flow meters.

growth in biofuels

Biofuel adoption was noticeable this year as many operators tested the fuel in Singapore.

“There are rumors that Singapore’s biofuels will reach 5 million tons per year by 2030 due to the development of the MPA quality standard for biofuel blends,” says Jesper Lindegaard Sørensen, Managing Director of KPI OceanConnect Singapore.

What remains clear is that Singaporean authorities are preparing for a future in which no single fuel will predominate – the port will offer the full range of alternative fuels available in the coming years, albeit with a clear short-term preference for LNG, methanol and biofuels .

“With the multi-fuel future ahead of us, it’s unclear whether bunker hubs will remain unchanged. We note that Singapore, along with the pioneers, has made significant investments in alternative fuel development to drive development together,” says Carl Schou, President of Wilhelmsen Ship Management, stressing that it is crucial that the Republic leading the alternative fuels debate to remain a prime bunker hub.

“More could be done to not only become the center of excellence for alternative fuel technology and bunkering, but also for universities and training centers that really prepare today’s seafarers for tomorrow’s challenges,” advises Peter Schellenberger, a household name in local shipping circles, who has just started his own consulting firm, Novamaxis.

methanol moves

Singapore, the world’s leading bunkering hub, is building the infrastructure for the future shipping fuel mix, in which methanol will play a significant role.

Local company Consort Bunkers recently commissioned China Merchants Jinling Shipyard to build six 6,500 dwt methanol bunker tankers, while Compatriot Global Energy Group received its first 4,000 dwt methanol bunker vessel from Japan’s Sasaki Shipbuilding in the last quarter of this year becomes. Another bunker supplier, Golden Island Diesel Oil Trading, is preparing to order a methanol tanker up to 12,000 dwt for delivery in 2026.

Six companies, including Danish airline Maersk, have partnered to build Asia’s first green e-methanol plant that converts captured biogenic carbon dioxide (CO2) into green e-methanol. The plant will be built in Singapore with a minimum production capacity of 50,000 tons per year.

While container lines have paved the way for methanol propulsion, dry bulk and tanker orders are now also in play. Another important shipping sector, the cruise industry, also wants to use methanol. Costa, TUI Cruises, Disney and Norwegian have expressed interest in switching to methanol as fuel for their cruise ships.

Analysis by class society DNV shows that methanol was the second most popular alternative fuel for newbuild orders after LNG last year and continued to be very popular in the first half of 2023.

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