The new low-sulfur regulation will drive the bunker fuel industry in a multi-fuel era. Instead of using only one standard fuel oil grade, Shipowners will now have a variety of fuels to choose from. Bunker suppliers are already working on various products each of which may originate from different sources, have a different specification and thus have a different impact on ship engines.
ENI, for example, is working on a 0.50% fuel originating from Vacuum Gas Oil (VGO). GoodFuels is exploring the opportunity of bunker fuels originating from sustainable 2nd generation biofuels. Major oil companies, like Shell and BP, are testing their own blends, while LNG remains an alternative option.
With the environmental regulations becoming stricter and the Charterers looking for cheaper and, at the same time, better performing vessels, Buyers will seek for further assurances on the quality of the so many alternative fuels. Key role in such quality investigation will play the higher transparency on the origin of the fuel products they will supply to their vessels.
It has been found that even the same fuel product may have completely different performance depending on its origin, since usually different raw materials and different production processes are used. For example, according to a report LNG originating from USA produces 5 times higher emissions than the LNG originating from Canada. Therefore, In the multi-fuel era, Shipowners’ ability to prove the origin of their bunkers will accommodate higher operational and environmental standards.
But how this can be achieved? Digitalised solutions can be utilised which will be used to track and verify all the stages of the production and delivery processes of each fuel; from the raw materials used until their delivery onboard the vessel. This will add transparency to the whole cycle and between all stakeholders and the buyers will be able to easily verify the quality of raw materials and of the final product as well as its expected environmental emissions.
Blockchain is a good example of such a modern technology. Blockchain has been recently used by GoodFuel in the production of bunker fuels originating from biofuels. Blockchain uses a decentralised public ledger where all the entries/information of the production and delivery procedures are stored. All stakeholders can have access into this ledger with the used of cryptographic keys, which makes the process completely transparent and difficult to forge.
Such transparency on the fuel provenance will not only help quality issues and eliminate off-spec cargoes to the minimum, but will also give solutions to chronic political problems and will minimise the trade of sanctioned or unathorised bunker fuels.