In 2015 Boskalis, along with consortium partners GoodFuels Marine of the Netherlands and Finnish engine manufacturer Wärtsilä, launched a two-year biofuel pilot program aimed at accelerating the scalable development of sustainable, reliable and affordable drop-in biofuels for the maritime sector, which could result in significant emissions reductions.
Biofuels are currently not part of the marine fuel mix that shipping companies and ship owners can choose from. This means that the maritime sector is missing out on an opportunity to utilize what could be an easy-to-use and truly sustainable fuel.
With a fleet of around 1,000 units Boskalis is constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce emissions and innovate in terms of sustainability. Theo Baartmans, member of the Board of Management and chairman of the Energy Management Taskforce: “We are strongly committed to developing business models based around sustainability. If our business objectives go hand-in-hand with sustainability and things such as technical feasibility and scalability are also in order, there is a huge potential for broad acceptance of this biofuel initiative. It will result in really significant reductions in emissions.
GoodFuels Marine is part of GoodNRG, a Dutch company that produces sustainable biofuels for the aviation and other sectors. At the launch of the pilot CEO Dirk Kronemeijer emphasized that his company focuses exclusively on the production of ‘second generation’ biofuels. “While our drop-in biofuels consist partly of waste products and reusable industrial oil, one of the most important components is lignin, which is found in so-called lignocellulosic crops. Lignin is the wood polymer that provides structural support to plant tissues. Lignin is a by-product of many industrial processes, for example the production of cellulose from wood, and is therefore available in large quantities for use as an energy source.”
GoodFuels Marine has installed a Sustainability Advisory Board consisting of leading NGOs and academics to ensure that its products are 100% sustainable and comply with the leading standards and principles of the Roundtable on Sustainable Biomaterials (RSB).
Joost Rijnsdorp, general manager of Procurement & Logistics at Boskalis, stresses the importance of the pilot program. “The initiative came out of the Meet the Buyer sessions organized by Boskalis. We look at blending diesel with biofuels up to a ratio of 30% or even 70%. Of course we also keep LNG in mind as an alternative fuel, but there are both operational and financial considerations that make drop-in biofuels attractive. From a financial point of view, the advantage is that the drop-in biofuels require no expensive modifications to the ships. Converting existing vessels to LNG is very costly and therefore unattractive at this time. Boskalis operates globally and our ships do not have fixed, regular ports of call. They are often deployed for relatively long periods to remote locations with limited infrastructure. The current LNG bunker network is not able to guarantee worldwide supply. A drop-in biofuel gives us the flexibility to bunker this fuel when it is available. When there are no alternatives, we can fall back on 100% fossil fuel.”
The pilot project enjoys the enthusiastic support of the Dutch government. Els de Wit, head of Clean Fuels at the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment: “The Netherlands is committed to cutting emissions of hazardous substances by 60% in the years to come. In the longer term the European Union will impose even tighter requirements. Maritime transport is an important pillar of our economy and shipping is almost completely dependent on fossil fuels. If this doesn’t change, we will be unable to meet our targets. Biofuel can play an important part in reducing emissions and improving air quality. In order to set the right example the Dutch government has also started a pilot involving these biofuels on ships belonging to the state-owned Rijksrederij fleet.”
Testing of the various new biofuels at the Wärtsilä laboratory in Finland was completed in late 2015. In 2016 endurance testing will start on one Boskalis vessel in order to validate the long-term performance and possible impact on the diesel engine, lubricant and fuel feed system, after which the fuel will undergo further testing on several Boskalis ships.
The consortium also focuses on the analysis and supply of a sustainable feedstock, securing industry certification and making the necessary preparations for large-scale production. In order to create a global platform the consortium will also initiate an international scalability study involving leading ship owners, universities, NGOs, ports, biofuel companies and other industry stakeholders.