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Consultants such as DNV, Lloyds Register and the Boston Consulting Group try to predict the future of marine fuels. In these scenarios today’s fuel range (HFO, MDO/MGO), the bio-alternatives (bio-diesel, straight vegetable oil), LNG, biogas, methanol, and hydrogen are considered and assessed. Moreover, a wide range of energy efficiency technologies and abatement solutions (including sulphur scrubbers and Selective Catalytic Reduction for NOx emissions abatement) are part of their modelling, as the these technologies’ recognition and increasing use influences the uptake of different fuels.

Some scenarios also take into account emission controlled areas (or ECAs), energy efficiency requirements (EEDI) and carbon policies. And, finally, also the price and availability of fuels play an important role.

Most consultants, however, conclude that by 2030 HFO will still be the dominant fuel accounting for a share between 47% and 66% depending on the success of the so-called scrubbers. Important to underline is that shipping lines involved in a global business will always verify bunkering opportunities on their routes and HFO and LSHFO is available about everywhere. LNG, which was said to become the marine fuel of the future just a few years ago, will have a stake of about 11%, according to the Boston Consulting Group. High investment costs in supply vessels and terminals, their more sophisticated design, and higher crew qualifications holds back the competitiveness and success of LNG. It is quite likely to sketch a similar scenario for other alternative fuels such as methanol, hydrogen or vegetable oil.

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Impact of alternative fuels uptake on the port reception facilities (PRF) business

Port reception facilities collect all type of ship generated waste and cargo residues from seagoing vessels. A “classic” ship burns high sulphur Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) on  high sea and switches to low sulphur fuels when reaching emission controlled areas and ports where emission restrictions apply. HFO is a residue in the refining process and, as such, contains material not able to pass filters and pipes and is derived to a sludge tank. Studies based on practical experience of shipping lines estimate the sludge to represent about 1.5% of the fuel. As a result, a container vessel burning about 100 tons a day generates about 1.5 tons of sludge a day.

Marine diesel oil or marine gas oil being more expensive, more refined and more qualitative products reduce the sludge production to only about 0.5%. LNG, methanol and biogas do not generate any sludge at all.

As a result, we distinguish two trends that will impact the business:

  • a growing demand for marine fuels as growing cargo volumes are transported;
  • a decreasing generation of sludge as the fuel mix changes and the demand for more energy efficiency increases.

The figure above shows the LNG uptake will take more time as huge investments are required:

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The next figure shows DNV’s update of LNG powered ships “in operation” or “on order”:

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Most of these ships are used in the emission controlled areas (Baltic Sea-North Sea) as they can easily refuel small LNG volumes. LNG and LPG carriers can use the boil off gas of their cargoes, so they don’t need to be bunkered on their route.

Conclusion: reduction of oily waste disposal by 2030

This means that PRFs in Baltic and North Sea ports will face a reduction of sludge volumes because of the ECA situation and the potential switch to LNG.  Another factor influencing the sludge production is the slower than expected uptake of scrubbers due to the economic situation of shipping in the past years. Shipowners have postponed the retrofitting of their ships due to the economic crises and over-capacity. The discussion about open loop, closed loop or hybrid exhaust gas cleaning systems may also have delayed some decisions.

After 2020 the impact of the reduction of the global sulphur cap will also influence sludge disposal in ports on the main routes in the Far East, Europe and North America. Even though some scenarios predict a growing nominal HFO consumption, the overall conclusion tends towards a serious reduction of oily waste disposal by 2030 due to the strong growth of alternative fuels.