Palm Biodiesel in Maritime Shipping Can Increase Trade and Sustainability

A new report by Dutch environmental consultancy Ecofys details the as yet unharnessed potential of biofuels for the maritime shipping sector, noting the dual advantage of cost reductions and increased sustainability. This is good news for Malaysian palm oil producers looking to export palm biodiesel to the European and American biofuel and food markets.

The authors of the report noted the environmental advantages of using biofuels for maritime transport and shipping. “If sulphur restrictions for marine fuels are tightened, biofuels triumph as they contain no sulphur. Their biodegradability also reduces the risk of marine pollution in case of spills,” noted Anouk Florentinus, project manager at Ecofys in the consultancy’s statement announcing the report.

Companies such as Neste, which recognize the significant potential of palm oil to meet the demand for transportation biofuels are already developing biofuels that meet these needs, most notably Neste’s signature NExBTL biodiesel. Already in use in petrol stations throughout Finland, Neste’s NExBTL has been demonstrated to reduce emissions by 40 to 60 percent, and contains no sulfur. And making the biodiesel more attractive is the fact it functions as a drop-in biodiesel, requiring no conversion of existing diesel engines.

However, as the Ecofys report authors note, lack of coherent policies between European Member States, and other countries implementing biofuel policies, limits the effectiveness of industry-wide adoption of sustainable biodiesel. And policies that discriminate against biodiesel sources, particularly in the case of the treatment of palm oil by the US and the EU, illustrate significant obstacles to a more sustainable maritime transportation and shipping sector.

The benefit for trade that the introduction of biofuels would have for the maritime sector cannot be understated. By reducing emissions, international shipping will become ever more sustainable, while utilization of low-cost sources will help to reduce shipping costs, thereby encouraging more trade between nations. The benefits for all parties are hard to overlook.

Written by The Oil Palm