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Assuring the quality, quantity and emissions abatement of drop-in green fuels

Crude algae oil as a drop-in green marine fuel

In progress

Project overview


Start Aug 2022 • End Sep 2024

GCMD team members



Chen LI

Long Lit CHEW


Anglo American



Boston Consulting Group

Eastern Pacific Shipping

MAN Energy Solutions


Saybolt (Singapore)

Stena Bulk

Swire Bulk


CAO supplier: Not named due to confidentiality agreements

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Although biofuels are available and “drop-in” compatible with existing bunkering infrastructure and shipboard technologies, their widespread adoption is challenged by the availability of sustainable feedstocks. 

Currently, global biodiesel (a type of biofuel) production is around 40 MTPA, a fraction of the shipping sector’s fuel consumption of 250 MTPA. This gap is further exacerbated by competition for sustainable feedstocks from aviation and other difficult-to-abate sectors. Broad deployment of biofuels in maritime will necessitate the identification of sustainable feedstocks that are available at scale.

The case for the study

To address this gap, GCMD is exploring the use of crude algae oil (CAO) as a very low GHG emissions marine fuel, where some algae strains are able to produce large quantities of lipids that can be turned into fuels.

CAO, considered a third-generation biofuel, promises to meet or exceed MEPC 80’s 65% GHG emissions reduction requirement for it to be classified as a biofuel.

Compared to other sustainable feedstocks, CAO offers the highest productivity, defined by oil yield per unit area. Additionally, it does not compete with food crops for arable land.

Scope of the study

To assess the feasibility of CAO as a drop-in fuel, GCMD is investigating how it compares to the current baseline of conventional marine fuels in the following areas: 

  1. Fuel characteristics

The pilot will compare the consistency of CAO quality across different production batches and evaluate the properties of neat CAO and its blends with residual marine fuels against ISO 8217 specifications.

  1. LCA GHG footprint

GCMD will conduct life cycle assessment (LCA) to comprehensively analyse greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint of CAO produced through different methods, specifically, autotrophic (growing algae using sunlight and carbon dioxide) and heterotrophic cultivation (growing algae using organic carbon sources).

  1. Supply and abatement cost

A critical challenge in the use of CAO concerns not only their environmental benefits but also their economic viability.

GCMD’s study will assess CAO for its scalability and cost of abatement.

These studies will ascertain the feasibility of: 

  • Testing CAO blends with marine fuels in engine OEM testing facilities, and/ or 

  • Testing CAO onboard vessels in an end-to-end supply chain trial under real world commercial operations.

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