Op:Ed: The one constant in shipping’s new fuel transition

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Ara Marine CEO talks future fuels

Aura Marine CEO John Bergman: "We understand that ship owners want to invest in green fuels; the challenge lies in finding the right solution and gaining confidence with it."

While uncertainty over “future fuels” has led some ship owners to stall on newbuild orders, it is important to analyze the fuel supply infrastructure of existing ships to ensure the decarbonization transition progresses successfully and supports the process of building confidence and driving uptake, says John Bergman, CEO at fuel supply system specialist Auramarine.

There has been a myriad of opinions on the shipping industry’s future fuels transition and the pathway to decarbonization; that there is no “’silver bullet,” that we need to take a lifecycle approach to emissions, and that we need to act now.

These viewpoints are all of course correct, but I was interested when I read a fresh perspective on the situation from Keith Dawe, head of decarbonization and energy transition at Cargill and co-chair of the Getting to Zero Coalition’s Fuels and Technologies work stream. He recently said: “different fuels imply different natures of transition: ammonia will require new infrastructure on land and on the vessels implying a complete system transition; methanol can be implemented by repurposing existing land-based infrastructure implying a vessel-by-vessel transition; and biofuels have limited scalability, but can drop into existing infrastructure, implying a voyage-by-voyage transition.”


To me, this brings home the need for having one important constant throughout this decades’ long period of change – and that is the need for having the right partners in place. With these partnerships, ship owners and operators are empowered to make informed decisions and advance the decarbonisation transition of their fleets.

There will be a gradual evolution as future fuels continue to be developed, and questions regarding availability and cost will become clearer. Next to that is the need to analyze every aspect of the supply process and the supporting fuel supply infrastructure. Add all this together, and you have the ingredients to ensure the continuity of supply and safety of operations in a future fuels world.

With a holistic, fuel-agnostic approach to the future marine fuels market, shipowners and operators can feel assured that they have the right bunkering and onboard operational fuel supply infrastructure is in place, both at a vessel and fleet level.

It is important to determine the best adaptation of existing onboard technology to effectively and safely handle new and future fuels, because the properties of new fuels – such as ammonia, methanol and sustainable biofuels – differ from those of traditional marine fuels.

If we look at sustainable biofuels more closely, they are one of the most viable pathways to marine decarbonization and can have an immediate impact on reducing emissions today. However, they can be corrosive and wear on metals, so this must be considered when planning fuel blends. Therefore, it is crucial to work with a partner that can apply its expertise and knowledge to ensure that every element of material used in a vessel’s fuel supply units is suitable for such new fuels. At engine inlet, though, all fuels must meet the requirements set by the engine manufacturer.

To support the uptake of biofuel, we are working with industry leaders Wärtsilä, Fortum, Neste and others on the BioFlex project to combine our expertise that will determine the most ecologically and economically sustainable way to evolve the marine energy supply chain and progress the use of biofuels.

Another option that is helping to drive shipping’s decarbonization trajectory today is methanol. This marine fuel is already being taken up by some shipping companies, and to meet demand, we have invested in the development of one of the industry’s first methanol fuel supply units.

The unit supplies methanol from the service tank to the consumers, while simultaneously regulating the flow, pressure and temperature of the methanol. All this, combined with filtration, ensures it is viable and safe for engines and other onboard methanol consumers. Already there is strong interest in methanol fuel supply systems, and we are advancing conversations with ship owners, operators, OEMs, and shipyards about supply and installation.

With our long-standing knowledge of marine fuels, we have developed a blueprint for determining how to bring new fuels online, while also enabling the use of fuels currently available on the market. We deliver a full suite of modular fuel supply and auxiliary systems for new fuels along with a full lifecycle service. As dual fuel engines require a back-up fuel system, we can also provide a full package of fuel supply units for the use of biofuel, methanol, and conventional fuels, as well as the maintenance and ongoing integrity of all equipment through our lifecycle services offering.

We understand that ship owners want to invest in green fuels; the challenge lies in finding the right solution and gaining confidence with it. Our attention to detail and 40 years of expertise we bring to partnerships enhances confidence in ship owners and the wider industry, which will help to drive widespread uptake of new fuels.

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