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Why Biofuels are Critical In Shipping’s Future Fuel Mix

Blog Article - October 18, 2021

Frederic Meyer, Strategy & Projects Director at TotalEnergies Marine Fuels recently spoke at the 3rd European Conference on the Future of Biofuels. He outlines his insight into the critical role that biofuels will play in shipping’s future fuel mix.

As we head towards IMO2050, there is no doubt that the future of shipping will be comprised of a mix of fuel solutions – all of which the shipping industry will need if we are to meet future fuel demands.

The diversification of this fuel mix is now well underway with the accelerated growth of marine LNG and the commercial use of Biofuels at its infancy stage.

These changes are being driven by shipping’s growing environmental regulations, including CII and EEXI and SEEMP, which come into effect on January 1, 2023.

The urgency for shipping to decarbonize is compounded by the EU commission’s ‘Fit for 55’ proposal, which lays out a basket of measures to address shipping’s emissions. Amongst these measures, the package includes the FuelEU Maritime initiative, which calls for the inclusion of shipping into the European Emissions Trading Scheme, thereby setting incentives for the sector to reduce its emissions. Through this legislation, it also aims to promote the use and production of renewable and low-carbon fuels.

When it comes to making effective GHG reductions, we believe Biofuel solutions, including BioLNG, Bio MDO and Bio Methanol have significant impact potential, crucially because they can be blended into existing fuels and fleets, whilst we look further forward to the development of E-fuels including synthetic-LNG, e-methanol, e-ammonia and e- hydrogen.

While vast biomass resources are available, as we accelerate towards scaling up these biofuel solutions there are some key challenges we will need to address, namely:

The answer to these challenges lie in the combination of the feedstocks and technologies that will be required to produce sustainable marine fuels in the quantities needed.

Feedstock solutions will be diverse and include edible oil crops and sugars, waste and residual lipids, algae and agricultural and wood residues, whilst technological pathways will come through a range of solutions including Hydrotreatment (HVO) and Esterification (FAME), which will be shared among the road, aviation and marine sectors. It is this competition that could limit the penetration of Biofuels into the shipping sector, unless favorable incentives are implemented.

It is likely therefore that we will need to see the development of dedicated biofuels for the shipping industry, through processes such as pyrolysis and hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL), to enable us to protect costs, whilst using the most sustainable feedstock and bringing significant abatement of carbon emissions to the shipping sector.

Accelerating Production Of Biofuels At TotalEnergies

As we have highlighted, liquid Biofuels provide an immediate and sustainable solution with FAME and HVO not only widely available but able to be blended with existing marine fuels.

So how are we accelerating production of these Biofuels at TotalEnergies?

Today, we are the largest Biofuel retailer in Europe, actively promoting E85 in France. Additionally, we are also expanding our biofuel retail business in Brazil. Specific projects include:

  • La Mède Biorefinery: a new energies complex converted from a former oil refinery, with a production capacity of 500,000 tonnes of HVO-type biofuels per year.
  • Zero-crude platform in Grandpuits: In September 2020, TotalEnergies announced plans to invest more than €500 million to convert its Grandpuits refinery into a zero-crude platform. Set to be commissioned in 2024, it will be a bio-refinery with a processing capacity of 400,000 metric tons per year of biomass into biofuels.

BioFuels – Providing a Ready Fuel Solution to Help Solve a Complex Equation

The beauty of Biofuels is that they offer us a ready, drop-in fuel solution, with no technological developments required on vessels for bunkering. What’s more, the infrastructure is in place, and key issues around safety have already been addressed through the investment, and knowledge gained from LNG.

Nevertheless, regulatory measures will have to be in place to address the cost premiums of biofuels, if shipping is to increase the commercial, long-term use of this lower-carbon fuel choice.

Frédéric Meyer
Frederic Meyer, Strategy & Projects Director, TotalEnergies Marine Fuels


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