Biofuels boost for our Marine Fuels business

It’s not often that we read about a fuels first, so Newsline wanted to put the spotlight on some great work recently undertaken by our Marine Fuels team – led by Nathalie Freeman, UK marine fuels manager and Armelle Breneol, marine fuels technical advisor.

One of the challenges facing the shipping industry in the energy transition is that the lifespan of a vessel can be up to 30 years depending on its sector. Ships have different engine specifications and will not always work with the new fuels being developed for a low carbon world. This means that until these ships are retired or retrofitted with new engines, the sector needs to find interim low-carbon fuel solutions that work with these older vessels.

Nathalie and Armelle take up the story….

Nathalie says: “In the autumn of 2019, I visited a prospect - Foreland Shipping, a British company that owns and operates four Roll-on Roll-off vessels (RO-RO) from its home port in Southampton. This was on the eve of a global International Maritime Organisation (IMO) ruling that prohibited ships from operating while using a fuel with more than 0.5% sulphur without an exhaust gas scrubber.

“Foreland Shipping had bought a very low sulphur fuel oil from another supplier which had had catastrophic consequences on one of their engines. They sought advice from us and asked whether we could offer our branded fuel EMF.5TM in the UK, or our marine gasoil, MGO.”

A few months later Armelle was advising the company’s technical team. She says: “Following lots of discussions with their chief engineers, we managed to clinch a deal for MGO, and Foreland Shipping has since been taking bunkers exclusively from ExxonMobil in Southampton.”

But the story doesn’t end there. Fast forward to earlier this year, when Foreland Shipping highlighted its appetite to test a new biofuel. A team led by Armelle worked on developing a supply chain to meet the initial demand and this has resulted in the first order for 400mT of DFA, a 7% bio marine gasoil. A first within ExxonMobil’s marine business!

Armelle says: “It was quite a task to work on this new fuel and put together a new supply chain. Colleagues from Fawley, Leatherhead, Bangkok, Brussels, Budapest, Fos and Prague were involved, incorporating Trading, the Bio Admin Team, Pricing,

Quality Advisors, Supply Coordination Customs & Tax, Sales Analyst & Analytics, Legal and several colleagues from within Marine Fuels, Sales and Marketing.

In addition, our barge operator Whitaker Tankers supported us in ensuring the supply chain met all regulatory aspects and collaborated with Southampton Port Authorities; ensuring the timely delivery of the biofuel component (fatty acid methyl esters, or FAME) by truck and the presence of Product Quality Advisor Justin Bowen onboard the delivering bunker tanker – all showcasing the unparalleled service & support our combined teams bring to our customers.

“Together, we were able to prove the concept of blending onboard and bunkering a bio marine gas oil in Southampton. The bunker in the UK is the first ever marine gasoil-based biofuel produced by ExxonMobil. We are very proud of what has been accomplished over many weeks of preparation.”

Nathalie says having a technical and product quality team that can talk knowledgeably about engine and fuel issues is fundamental to the value ExxonMobil Marine Fuels offers vs other market players. She adds: “The challenge now is to build on this success to ensure we are ready to respond to customer demand as it increases in line with new regulations aiming for more sustainable shipping where both fuels and lubricants have a role to play.

“This project really highlights how our company is working towards its wider energy transition mission by providing support in one of the industry sectors that is difficult to decarbonise.”

Image The bunker tanker loaded with the first ever marine gasoil-based biofuel produced by ExxonMobil approaches one of the Foreland Shipping fleet
The bunker tanker loaded with the first ever marine gasoil-based biofuel produced by ExxonMobil approaches one of the Foreland Shipping fleet