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Green maritime consortium to use blockchain in biofuels pilot

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Last week the Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation (GCMD) announced it is leading a consortium of 18 companies in a pilot project to trial biofuels for marine fuel. Blockchain and traceability startup BunkerTrace is responsible for the tracking although GCMD is keen to highlight that it is technology agnostic. The maritime industry is currently a larger contributor to global carbon emissions than the aviation sector.

“By facilitating and creating an optimised drop-in green fuels supply chain, this pilot will help to shape national and international standards of biofuels bunkering and lower the barrier for their wider adoption to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions,” said Professor Lynn Loo, CEO of GCMD.

The most recent statistics show the maritime sector makes up 2.9% of carbon emissions compared to 2.4% for the aviation sector. However, those streaks left in the sky by aircraft – contrails – have a far more dramatic impact on global warming than CO2 emissions. It’s estimated that contrails’ current warming influence is greater than the impact of all CO2 ever emitted by aircraft. Both the aviation and maritime sectors are predicted to expand significantly in the coming decades, so something needs to be done regarding the fuels used.

Biofuels are viewed as a near-term solution because they can be adopted by ships with minimal changes and impact. During the tests, 12 ships will use blended fuels at the ports of Singapore, Rotterdam and Houston. Up to 30% of the blended fuel will be biofuels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and fatty acid methyl esters (FAME). 

But there’s a need for some measurement and tracking of quantity, quality and impact on GHG emissions. The GCMD pilot aims to come up with an assurance framework.

“A variety of biofuels and biofuel blends have already been successfully tested, but this comprehensive pilot can help address remaining uncertainties about how these fuels work in practice by getting extensive end-user operational experiences with products involving FAME and HVO, and hopefully also crude algae oil,” said Unni Einemo, Director of the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA).

BunkerTrace’s solution uses synthetic DNA tracing to track marine fuels, combined with blockchain. Synthetic DNA is added to marine fuel at various stages within the supply chain. The blockchain ledger records every transaction in the supply chain and tracks the fuel’s journey as it changes hands along with quality tests. 

“Blockchain and DNA-powered fuel tracing and tracking is a far more accurate and transparent means of monitoring fuel than we have seen before, and sets the bar for future fuel tracing and tracking,” said Deanna MacDonald, Co-founder & CEO, BunkerTrace.

While there may be a consortium for this project, it is more of a marine biofuel collaboration than a blockchain consortium.

London-based BunkerTrace first trialed its solution as a joint venture in 2018, becoming a standalone company in 2019 and launching its solution that year. More recently, FuelTrust has launched a blockchain solution for tracking and calculating GHG emissions over the lifetime of a ship.