Biofuels for the maritime industry in Rotterdam
In order to reduce carbon and other harmful emissions in the global shipping industry, including ports and inland shipping, various types of biofuels are needed. As a country, the Netherlands aim for a carbon-neutral energy system by 2050. Again, to reach this goal, we need biofuels that serve road-, air- and water-transport purposes. As the biggest port in Europe, Rotterdam seeks to play an important and positive role in making the energy transition happen and it stimulates and facilitates stakeholders in the area to join in the process, from energy companies to start-ups and from small to large shipowners and ship management companies.
The Port of Rotterdam is a major biofuel producer, bringing development, production, trade, storage and transhipment of biofuels together in one place. As raw materials come in every day, the port is ideally situated for feeding factories, of which there are five major ones, serve oceangoing vessels with bunker fuel and distribute biofuels across Europe. Using these new fuels contributes to the decarbonisation of shipping.
These fuels can be made from organic matter called ‘biomass’ and also from municipal solid waste (MSW). They can exist in three states: liquid, solid and gas. Biofuels that are currently used to experiment with or are actually used in practice include ethanol, biodiesel, advanced methanol and butanol. All in all, biofuels seem a promising solution for reducing carbon emissions in the maritime industry. Some even say that methanol is the future fuel for oceangoing vessels.
Producing the fuels of the future now
Currently, Rotterdam has the largest biofuel cluster in the world and is building a new energy infrastructure, not only for biofuels, but also, for example, for hydrogen and electricity. A challenge is that as yet not many shipowners make use of biofuels. In sofar this is related to a healthy supply of fuels and (bunkering) infrastructure, the Port of Rotterdam is working hard to realise this and expand production. As the region is a global logistics hub, green energy production, transport, import and export are set to mature.
If we want to have a CO2-neutral port in 2050, then the entire value chain must collaborate to fully integrate biofuels in the overall fuel system for almost all modes of transport. One of the means to stimulate the production and maritime use of biofuels is creating ‘green corridors’. These are designated routes between Rotterdam and other ports where zero-emission sailing is the norm and all involved parties aim to make this happen.
Example: Don’t waste waste
Gidara Energy (est. 2019) is a Dutch energy company that converts non-recyclable waste into syngas, i.e. a clean biofuel and a versatile source of energy. The company deploys its patented HTW gasification technology to turn waste into pellets and pellets into fuels that commercial vessels can sail on. They aim to meet the demand for cleaner fuels in order to reduce global carbon emissions in shipping and create a more circular economy. With this technology they have developed their flagship fuel: advanced methanol.
Companies, government agencies and knowledge institutions in the Rotterdam region are working together to realise decarbonisation and other sustainable development goals. Developing biofuels and building the necessary infrastructure to get more and more shipowners to take part in this process is one part of the puzzle.