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The Japan Maritime Daily – Supporting decarbonisation by promoting collaboration

Published on

19 April 2024

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First featured on The Japan Maritime Daily

Interviewer Hisashi Kamizou
Note: This article has been translated and may contain adaptations to fit the context

The Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD), a Singaporean non-profit organization that promotes the decarbonisation of shipping, is participating in the International Maritime Week “Singapore Maritime Week”, which is being held in the country from the 15th to the 19th April 2024. We spoke to Dr Sanjay C Kuttan, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) and Mr Koh Eng Kiong, Director (Research & Projects).

■ Achieving IMO goals
Question: Please tell us about the background of the establishment of GCMD and its goals.

Setting up the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation was a recommendation that the International Advisory Panel for Maritime Decarbonisation submitted to the Singapore Government in April 2021.  Following this recommendation, GCMD was established in August 2021 as a non-profit organisation founded by six industry partners namely: BHP, BW Group, Eastern Pacific Shipping, Foundation Det Norske Veritas, Ocean Network Express and Seatrium (formerly Sembcorp Marine). GCMD also receives funding from the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) for qualifying research and development programmes and projects. GCMD is strategically located in Singapore, the world’s largest bunkering hub and second largest container port. Our mission is to support decarbonisation of the industry to meet or exceed the IMO goals for 2030 and 2050 by shaping standards, deploying solutions, financing projects, and fostering collaboration across sectors.

Question: We understand that GCMD’s initiative on ammonia as a marine fuel is progressing. What is the current progress towards practical application, i.e. the ship-to-ship transfer of ammonia in port waters?

In April 2023, we announced a commissioned study on piloting ammonia fuel bunkering. This study developed a competency framework to prepare seafarers and operators to handle ammonia. Currently, we are making preparations for piloting the physical transfer of ammonia. We will be carrying out ammonia transfer pilots in the waters of a family of ports. To this end, we have shortlisted ammonia carriers and are conducting vessel- and site-specific safety studies, as well as drafting emergency response plans. Singapore-specific reports will be publicly released later this year. Alongside, preparatory work is underway in close discussion with relevant regulatory authorities to ready ourselves for the actual transfer of ammonia between two vessels at ports elsewhere.

■ Biofuel Testing
Question: What is the progress of GCMD’s initiative on developing assurance framework for  drop-in green fuels, e.g. biofuels? 

GCMD initiated a pilot in July 2022 to establish an assurance framework for drop-in green fuels, starting with biofuels. This pilot aims to establish an assurance framework for ensuring the supply chain integrity of current and future green marine fuels. To date, we have completed 3 supply chain trials with biofuels blended with conventional marine fuels at 24% (B24) and 30% (B30) and have deployed a swath of tracing techniques, including the use of physical tracers, carbon dating, chemical fingerprinting and a lock-and-seal methodology to track sustainable biofuels from their production facilities to their consumption onboard vessels. The data collected from these three completed trials will form the basis for our assurance framework for drop-in green fuels, which aims to provide emissions abatement assurance to shipowners and charterers when it comes to paying a premium for green fuels over fossil fuels.  

In addition, we are exploring the use of crude algae oil (CAO), a third generation biofuel as a drop-in biofuel for shipping sector. With a high productivity yield i.e., 10-25x of oil per unit of area/ land, it has the potential to increase the supply of biofuels to support the industry. CAO also has the potential to meet or exceed MEPC 80’s 65% GHG emissions reduction requirement for biofuels. GCMD is currently studying the properties of CAO, including consistency of CAO quality from a variety of sources, the specifications of CAO and CAO-blended VLSFO against ISO 8217 and the compatibility of its use with engine OEMs.

Question: I would like to hear about the overview and progress of REMARCCABLE (Realising maritime carbon capture to demonstrate the ability to lower emissions), as well as the construction of the CCUS value chain. 

While carbon capture and storage has been established onshore for some time, Onboard Carbon Capture and Storage (OCCS) has only gained traction in recent years as a feasible approach to meet 2023 IMO revised GHG emissions reduction targets. There are also many hurdles in terms of operating cost, such as the high capital investment for a ship-compatible system in space and the fuel used in the recovery system. To help overcome these hurdles, GCMD, Oil and Gas Climate Initiative (OGCI) and Stena Bulk embarked on a pilot to demonstrate an end-to-end OCCS system at scale. Together with ABS, Deltamarin, Lloyd’s Register, Seatrium and TNO, the eight-member consortium are investigating the challenges and opportunities of deploying carbon capture technologies on ships. Currently, the conceptual design and front-end engineering design study (FEED) of an OCCS system to be installed onboard an MR Tanker has been completed with findings slated to be released later this year. For OCCS systems to be practicable, the industry needs to develop a collaborative ecosystem to enable the value chain for managing captured CO2.

To this end, GCMD has just completed a study to articulate the operational envelop for offloading onboard captured CO2. Conducted in collaboration with Lloyd’s Register and Arup, this study has identified  crucial requirements of the post captured carbon value chain to enable vessels equipped with OCCS systems to operate. The study identified low port readiness, i.e., a lack of established processes and infrastructure that allow offloading of liquefied captured CO2 from merchant vessels, as a major hurdle to deploying OCCS.

Question: Last year, GCMD signed a strategic partnership agreement with NYK Lines and an impact partnership agreement with Mitsui OSK Lines. How can Japan’s technology and achievements can contribute to the decarbonization of international shipping?

NYK and Mitsui OSK Lines are both among the top shipowners in Japan and are leading efforts to decarbonise their respective fleets. NYK, for example, is on track to retrofit the Sakigake, originally an LNG-powered tugboat, for ammonia propulsion. Operating this first-of-a-kind vessel will provide new understanding on ammonia handling and engine performance. Plans are also underway for NYK to build ammonia-fuelled medium gas carrier (AFMGC). MOL has been developing the Wind Challenger, a next generation wind powered vessel, to reduce fuel consumption and support emissions reduction.  

Our partnership with NYK and MOL resulted in mutually beneficial outcomes. Their knowledge and networks will help us identify key areas that needs to be addressed for the wider deployment of new fuels and hardware solutions. In return, NYK and MOL, through their participation in discussions on ammonia bunkering guidelines, safety assessments, and risk considerations, are gaining a first-hand understanding of the challenges and opportunities associated with the use of ammonia as a marine fuel.

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