Stena Bulk Taps Used Cooking Oil in Green Push

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August 7, 2020

During a 10-day sea trial earlier this year, the Stena Immortal ran 100 percent biofuel supplied by GoodFuels. Photo: Stena Bulk

By Ann Koh and Low De Wei (Bloomberg) –Stena Bulk AB, one of the world’s biggest tanker lines, plans to run some of its ships on used cooking oil to offer customers a way to offset their pollution. The major problem might be getting enough of it.

Stena Immortal, a medium-range tanker that can transport around 40,000 tons of fuel, made a 10-day voyage from Rotterdam to the U.S. earlier this year. It used a marine biofuel produced by Dutch company GoodFuels.

The fuel costs around $100 a ton more than the blend of marine gasoil and low-sulfur fuel oil that the Stena Immortal usually runs on, and it used 22 tons a day, according to Stena Bulk Chief Executive Officer Erik Hanell. That translates to a 30% higher fuel bill, according to Bloomberg calculations based on marine gasoil prices in Rotterdam.

Given those numbers, the used cooking oil won’t be economic on its own. Rather, the Swedish shipper plans to offer it as part of a carbon-credit scheme. The fuel may not necessarily be used on the vessel carrying the client’s cargo, but on any Stena Bulk ship to reduce the amount of carbon-emitting petroleum used on the customer’s voyage, Hanell said. No contracts have been signed yet, he said.

“We want to be ahead of the curve for shipping,” Hanell said in an interview. The fuel is currently only available at Rotterdam, but Stena is looking for sources of biofuels near other major ports, he said.

Stena Bulk’s efforts are part of a broader shipping industry push to de-carbonize after the International Maritime Organisation pledged to halve greenhouse gas emissions from 2008 levels by 2050. Shipping accounts for around 2.2% of these emissions, the IMO said.

There’s an increasing interest in biodiesels produced from cooking oil and blended with very low-sulfur fuel oil across the shipping industry, said Douglas Raitt, a regional advisory services manager at Lloyd’s Register Singapore Pte. However, high prices, scalability and understanding the true sustainability of these fuels may be hurdles to their uptake, he said.

“Without more specific legislation, the drive to use these ‘low carbon drop-in-now’ fuels may not really take a hold in the market unless the consumer demands it,” Raitt said.

The limited volumes of waste biomass for shipping means that these new technologies will need to be further developed and tested to produce enough biofuel to cover increased demand, said Peter Sand, chief shipping analyst at industry group BIMCO. It will take some time before massive ocean-going cargo carriers can switch from fossil fuels, he said.

GoodFuels, majority-owned by Finco Fuel Holding BV, also supplies the fuel to several other shippers including Denmark’s Norden A/S, which trialled it on its merchant vessels in 2018. It’s sourced from restaurants and also residual oil from the production of cosmetics or other biofuels across Europe and Asia, said Chief Technology Officer Bart Hellings. Getting enough of the feedstock is the main challenge, he said.

The company is aiming to produce 30,000 to 50,000 tons of the fuel this year, Hellings said. That compares with a total marine fuel market of around 400 million tons a year, according to IHS Markit.

“Looking at the demand side, I can say that we are basically permanently sold out,” Hellings said. To increase production, GoodFuels is looking to build a first-of-its-kind facility that could make shipping fuel from sawdust, he said.

–With assistance from Sanjit Das.

© 2020 Bloomberg L.P

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