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UECC hails success of biofuel trials

Photo: Paul Bartlett Paul-gent-UECC.jpg
Norway’s United European Car Carriers (UECC) has racked up 500 hours of ship operation using cashew nut shell oil (CNSL), a new type of biofuel from Netherlands-based supplier, ACT Group.

The 2,500-hour biofuel trial project on four vessels in the UECC short-sea vehicle carrier fleet, will be completed by October and also involves Lloyd’s Register and Wärtsilä. The partners are testing ‘B100’ CNSL as a 30% constituent in fuel blends.

Biofuel testing compounds the NYK/Wallenius-owned company’s strategy of using alternative fuels to decarbonise. Until now these have focused on LNG.

However, combining biofuel and LNG within UECC’s fuel mix has achieved significant carbon dioxide reductions, with tank-to-wake carbon dioxide emissions slashed by 60,000 tonnes across the fleet in 2023, two-thirds of which is a result of using biofuel. The company predicts that by increasing the proportion of LNG and biofuel in its fuel mix, an annual emissions reduction of 87,346 tonnes will be possible in 2025.  

Speaking to journalists last week, the company’s Energy & Sustainability Manager, Daniel Gent, commented: “We are well on the way to reach or exceed our 45% emissions reduction target by 2030. This clearly has a positive impact for those bio-supportive cargo owners in terms of reducing costs related to the EU Emissions Trading System (EU ETS).”

Gent acknowledged that several troublesome properties of CNSL, which is often used in epoxy mixes, limits the amount that can be used. The presence of what he characterised as “extremely questionable” biofuels in the market necessitated the search for an alternative, he said.

While not yet fully exploited, biofuel resources are stretched thinly between the transport industries, leaving the sector open to abuse. “The market needs to mature,” Gent declared. “It’s like the wild west.”

He explained that it’s important to see where the biofuel comes from, describing proof of sustainability as “often very dubious”. In particular, some Chinese biofuels are known to contain various censured feedstocks which would not be considered “green” should their full “well-to-wake” carbon footprint be taken into account.

This is one factor that has spurred the enthusiasm for CNSL, Gent explained. “Using 100% cashew nut oil would be a challenge. CNSL is not generally used in our industry, and has a bad name among marine engineers. You generally wouldn’t want it in the cylinders of your engine.”

However, he explained that the company had worked together with ACT to formulate high-quality blends. He suggested that it might be possible to use greater percentages of CNSL in due course, adding that sufficient due diligence would be “incumbent” on shipping lines and customers alike, to ensure a positive environmental impact.

Last month, UECC celebrated the keel-laying of a third 3,600 ceu LNG battery hybrid pure car truck carrier at Jiangnan Shipyard in China. The first of the three ships, which will be deployed in the company’s short-sea trades in Europe, will be delivered later this year. When all three are commissioned, UECC will have five eco-friendly PCTCs, including the two dual-fuel LNG-powered ships already in operation, making up half of its ten-vessel fleet.

Speaking at the event, UECC Chief Executive Glenn Edvardsen, said: “No other short-sea company, or deep-sea for that matter, can demonstrate such a sustainable fleet … UECC is taking the initiative in the industry to achieve decarbonisation using currently available technologies, rather than waiting for the perfect solution. At the same time, these vessels will be highly cost-competitive due to operational efficiency and reduced fuel costs.