The Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) published a report called the “Availability of sustainable biofuels” into the role of sustainable biofuels in the decarbonisation of shipping.
ccording to the report, shipowners, charterers, and their customers are developing strategies and taking action toward decarbonising the shipping sector and thereby their supply chains. Among these, several companies are testing biofuels as a potential alternative fuel.
Currently, several biofuel types are available and offer GHG emission reductions at the operational stage (tank-to-wake).
However, SSI notes that the sustainability of the biomass feedstocks used to make these biofuels needs to be carefully scrutinised, alongside the full lifecycle (well-to-wake) carbon credentials of the biofuel, in order to ensure that GHG emissions are not shifted upstream (well-to-tank).
Moreover, biofuels are one fuel where it is difficult to discern between sustainable and non-sustainable alternatives, which is why their sustainability should be verified through widely accepted standards and associated certification schemes.
As shipping has a global nature it is important to ensure that the same sustainability criteria are applied regardless of geography in order to truly ensure GHG benefits of biofuels over fossil alternatives
What is more, there is still much uncertainty around whether sustainable biofuels are a mass market, scalable and long-term solution to decarbonise the shipping sector or if they will only have niche applications.
In fact, data from SSI’s 2019 inquiry anticipated that biofuel use by the shipping sector would be higher in 2030 than 2050, implying that biofuels are more of a short- rather than long-term solution.
Whilst the demand for energy by the shipping sector may perhaps, and theoretically, be met with biofuels, in reality the amount of biofuels available globally will need to be shared, and competed for, with other industries such as aviation and bioplastics
To summarize the report concluded to the following:
- Biofuels are generally recognised as one option for lowering GHG emissions for shipping;
- Sustainable biomass feedstock availability is hard to foresee and calculations vary depending on the factors taken into account from the onset;
- The current data on sustainable biomass availability presents disparities between the different sources;
- There is a need for better understating the cross-sector and cross-industrial demand for sustainable biofuels;
- Some biofuel production technologies offer the possibility to produce biofuels for several markets;
- Innovation and investment can lead to the development and eventual commercialisation of more advanced, feedstock flexible, biofuel production technologies;
- Policies are needed to direct the sustainable biomass resources into the various industrial sectors that would require what is available;
- The application and verification of robust sustainability criteria is needed to ensure the sustainability of biofuels across the shipping sector and beyond.