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By Lynn L. Bergeson and Carla N. Hutton
On October 6, 2022, the European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) announced the availability of a report entitled Update on Potential of Biofuels in Shipping, updating a previous study developed by EMSA on biofuels and examining the full range of biofuels from the perspective of current production capacity, storage and distribution infrastructure, and power-generation technologies. According to EMSA, the report also features techno-economic analyses and includes risk-based case studies to evaluate the potential of biofuels for the maritime sector. According to EMSA, among the broad spectrum of technology and fuel-solution pathways available for ship designers, builders, owners, and operators, biofuels potentially offer medium- and long-term marine fuel alternatives that can enter the market relatively quickly; they also offer the potential, if sustainability criteria are met, to reduce carbon output compared to traditional carbon-based fossil fuels. EMSA notes that although the current use of biofuels in marine-engine applications is very limited, there is significant potential for biofuels to capture a larger share of the total maritime fuel consumption and support the European Union (EU) and International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) greenhouse gas (GHG)-reduction ambitions for the maritime industry. EMSA states that “[r]ecent regulatory developments in the EU covering GHG emissions and the lifecycle aspect of fuels provide a basket of measures in line with the climate goals that could accelerate their adoption.” The “drop-in” characteristics of biofuels -- the possibility to replace conventional petroleum-refined hydrocarbons without substantial modifications to engines, fuel tanks, pumps, or supply systems -- may offer “an immediate, attractive and cost-effective solution, for the existing fleet.”