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Singapore eyes growing role in alternative marine fuels

  • : Biofuels, Hydrogen, Petrochemicals
  • 23/05/25

Singapore is looking to play a bigger role in the alternative marine fuels industry, ahead of the first methanol bunkering operations scheduled for this year's third quarter.

"Green" methanol is regarded by some industry participants as the most viable renewable fuel that could enable the shipping industry to meet the International Maritime Organisation's emissions targets for 2050.

Trading firm Trafigura sees potential in marine fuels derived from green hydrogen such as methanol and ammonia, while Shell also sees "more sophisticated biofuels" such as bio-methanol, to be a longer term decarbonisation pathway.

Europe and the Americas have already made significant headway in this area, with ports in Europe readying themselves to operate methanol ship-to-ship bunkering, while Trinidad and Tobago is looking to develop a methanol bunkering facility.

Joint venture Proman Stena Bulk completed the first barge-to-ship methanol bunkering operation on the US Gulf coast earlier this year. Canada's Methanex and Japanese shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines also completed a vessel voyage from Geismar, Louisiana to Antwerp, Belgium on bio-methanol.

While the uptake of alternative marine fuels in Asia has been slower, Singapore has taken steps in developing the sector.

The Singapore-based Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation completed two bunkering trials with different supply chains of biofuels in February 2023. The trials utilised used cooking oil methyl ester (Ucome) blended with very-low sulphur fuel oil and Ucome blended with high-sulphur fuel oil.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) organised a workshop for hazard identification and operations during 18-19 May 2023, aimed at ensuring the safe handling of methanol fuel in Singapore. More than 40 participants from various methanol bunkering partners attendance, representing "a key milestone for MPA to ensure that Singapore is ready for methanol bunkering", it said.

The MPA last year developed a provisional national quality standard for marine biofuels, as well as a framework outlining conditions for biofuel supplies for licensed bunker fuel suppliers.

Favoured location

Singapore remains a favoured location for bunkers and has made progress in supplying alternative fuels, the MPA announced earlier this year. The city-state registered 47.9mn t of bunker sales in 2022. While total volumes fell by 4.3pc from a year earlier it included about 140,000t of biofuel blends over more than 90 biofuel bunkering operations, which surpassed the 16,000t in LNG bunker sales.

The marine fuels sector offers potential methanol demand growth in the coming years, with consumption from other derivative chemical sectors becoming stagnant.

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