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APM 2024 Interview: GCMD examines decarbonisation of Singapore’s bunkering fleet, promotes biofuel fingerprinting

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12 March 2024

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First published on Manifold Times

Dr. Prapisala Thepsithar, Director of Research & Projects, GCMD provides an update on the IMO 2030 readiness of Singapore’s bunkering fleet and discusses the significance of a completed fingerprinting study for biofuels.


Dr. Prapisala Thepsithar, Director of Research & Projects, Global Centre for Maritime Decarbonisation, recently spoke with Singapore-based bunkering publication Manifold Times, ahead of the Asia Pacific Maritime (APM) 2024 to be held on 13 to 15 March. 

How far is Singapore’s bunkering fleet on target to meet IMO 2030 requirements?

While emissions from bunker fleets are accounted for under national emissions budget, and as such do not contribute directly to IMO’s overall GHG emissions targets, bunker vessels are responsible for delivering bunkers that contribute directly to shipping’s scope 1 emissions, and therefore play an indirect but crucial role in enabling maritime decarbonisation. As the world’s largest bunkering port (50 MPTA of bunker), Singapore thus stands to significantly contribute to achieving IMO’s targets. This will be achieved by ensuring the readiness of its future bunker fleet to supply alternative fuels to international shipping.

Singapore is home to around 200 fossil fuel bunker vessels; these are interoperable for carrying and bunkering fuel oil blends with up to 24% biofuels (B24). In a recent positive development, Annex II bunker vessels capable of bunkering fuel oil blends with more than 24% biofuels have been recently delivered to Singapore. The addition of Annex II bunker vessels will allow ship operators to readily bunker fuel blends with higher biofuels concentrations and Singapore should accordingly see an uptick in biofuels delivery as a consequence.

The port waters of Singapore is also serviced by three LNG bunker vessels that can readily bunker bio-LNG in the future, offering another “drop-in” green fuel.

As for other green fuels, the outlook for bio-methanol, green methanol, green ammonia, presents a mixed picture. Following a successful methanol bunkering trial in 2023, the construction of methanol bunker vessel is underway. The uptake of methanol as a marine fuel will depend on the life-cycle assessment (LCA) of the methanol supply.

While several approvals-in-principle (AIP) have been granted for ammonia bunkering vessels, final investment decisions are premature at this stage. This is due to the lack of commercially available ammonia-fuelled engines and the uncertain market demand for ammonia as a marine fuel. The construction of such first-of-a-kind asset faces potential low returns on investments. To facilitate commissioning, a commercial arrangement that allows shared financial and operational risks will be required.

How would findings from GCMD’s fingerprinting studies with VPS impact the practicalities of local/ global deployment of biofuel blends?

Biofuels, particularly FAME and biodiesels, are promising green fuels candidates today given their “drop-in” compatibility with existing engines and bunkering infrastructure. Yet, concerns remain over their long-term impact on engines and the carbon intensities associated with their production. Specifically, land-use change associated with feedstock acquisition can lead to increased GHG emissions.

Additionally, the variable performance of biodiesels due to their chemical composition and response to environmental conditions, raises challenges within the vessel’s fuel delivery system and engines and potentially across the biofuels supply chain.

Fingerprinting techniques therefore offer a vital tool for addressing these concerns. This technique acts as a dual indicator, to trace and authenticate feedstock provenance and predict biofuels properties.


Chemical fingerprinting can help identify the origin of FAME in biofuels. This technique, combined with others, like physical tracers and lock and-seal methodology, provides a comprehensive suite of tools for detecting fraudulent fuels. This transparency is essential for both upstream suppliers and downstream stakeholders to safeguard the green premium of biofuels, and ultimately safeguard the integrity of marine fuels supply chain.

Predicting biofuels properties

The FAME that composes biofuels determines its physical and chemical properties. Consequently, identification through chemical fingerprinting of biofuels can help predict fuel characteristics relevant to vessel performance, such as cold flow properties and oxidationstability.

This information will aid vessel operators in their handling and storage of biofuels, mitigating any potential issues, like inadvertent heating that would lead to wax formation, and clogging due to fuel degradation.

GCMD, in collaboration with VPS, has developed and deployed test methods, including one that complies with EN14103:2020 to identify FAME fingerprint in residual fuels. This process has a turnaround time of less than 24 hours; the turnaround time can potentially be further reduced to under an hour with the deployment of gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) for fuel compositional analysis. The swiftness of this test can lower the barrier for frequent fuels testing, which should ultimately bolster the integrity of the marine fuels supply chain.

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