Certification agency Bureau Veritas is calling for a well-to-wake approach to alternative fuels in maritime.

In its white paper just published on fuels - An Overview of Alternative Fuels from a Well-to-Wake Perspective - the agency evaluates all the current contenders - namely, LNG, LPG, methanol, ammonia, hydrogen and biofuels.

BV White Paper

BV White Paper

It makes the point that even carbon-free fuels could have a carbon-intensive supply chain - which means that in total, their emissions from well to wake are higher than the fossil fuels they are supposed to replace.

”Only through a complete life-cycle analysis can the environmental impact of fuels be properly evaluated,” said strategy director Paul Delouche. ”Understanding how these fuels are produced and transported is paramount.

“Therefore, achieving decarbonisation in WtW terms will require unprecedented collaboration and transparency with upstream and production chains, including a broad range of stakeholders from energy and chemical suppliers to authorities and financiers. The maritime world has chosen to decarbonise, and the only way to succeed is to collaborate, sharing knowledge and resources across the industry and beyond.”

The white paper also emphasises the importance of renewable electricity in enabling the production of e-ammonia, green hydrogen, e-methane, e-methanol and e-diesels - which is bound to mean further offshore wind farm expansion, which would also align with the intention to produce such fuels off grid and enable offshore bunkering.

The range of vessel type and size will also inevitably mean the adoption of several fuels, BV says, as ’certain types and sizes will have different optimal solutions’.

”In future, small- and medium-sized ships could take advantage of several promising solutions: biofuels, battery- or hybrid battery-power, hydrogen and green methanol,” it says.

“On paper, green ammonia seems to be the ideal long-term solution for large ships operating in open seas from a purely environmental perspective. However, alternative fuels like synthetic methane (e-methane) and e-methanol, including advanced biofuels, are also serious contenders.

 “As 2050 approaches, Bureau Veritas believes the maritime world will gain in prominence in a safe zero-carbon future,” it concludes. ”Assessing alternative fuel options must be done from a WtW basis to achieve true decarbonisation in the shipping industry. Only through a complete life cycle analysis can the environmental impact of fuels be properly evaluated.