DNV: Biofuel key to maritime decarbonisation, but growth challenged by scarce supply

DNV's latest white paper “Biofuels in shipping” finds that the flexibility of biofuels can enable the shipping industry to accelerate its journey towards decarbonisation while maintaining operational efficiency, although limitations in production capacity may impact short-term supply.
DNV: Biofuel key to maritime decarbonisation, but growth challenged by scarce supply
Courtesy of NREL.

With the shipping industry getting ready to meet decarbonisation requirements, the use of biofuels is on the rise. The current global production capacity of sustainable biofuels is around 11 million tonnes of oil equivalent (Mtoe) per year. DNV predicts that a sustainable and economically viable supply of biofuels, ranging from 500 to 1300 Mtoe annually, can be achieved by 2050. However, to fully decarbonise shipping using biofuels, in combination with energy efficiency measures, an annual supply of 250 Mtoe of sustainable biofuels is required by 2050. This would represent 20-50 percent of potential global production.

“Biofuels are poised to play a notable role in the decarbonisation of shipping” said Eirik Ovrum, Principal Consultant in DNV Environment Advisor. “Nevertheless, existing constraints on production capacity and competition from other sectors is likely to impact short-term supply to the maritime industry. A  major build-up of sustainable production capacity is needed before biofuels can reach their full potential and thus shipping’s goal of decarbonising will need to be achieved in combination with energy efficiency measures as well as use of other low carbon fuels alternatives.”

Regulatory developments, such as The EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), present a strong incentive for embracing biofuels, making both biofuels and biomass highly sought after by various sectors as they strive for decarbonisation. These resources are also currently being used in cooking, water and space heating, as well as timber and pulp and paper production posing some challenges to production capacity and availability.

The white paper takes a closer look at these challenges by shedding light on the potential role of biofuels in enabling the decarbonisation of shipping, while also offering practical advice on the necessary preparations before integrating biofuels onboard vessels.

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