Japan’s Ambition Clashes With Infrastructure Gaps


Japan’s marine sector faces a challenge in adopting biofuels as a marine fuel due to insufficient delivery infrastructure, despite the industry’s strong interest in exploring more sustainable options. This hurdle comes at a time when the shipping sector is considering alternative fuels to align with Japan’s and the International Maritime Organisation’s 2050 net-zero emission goals.

Biofuel Appeal and Infrastructure Deficiency

Biofuels emerge as an attractive option to reduce CO2 emissions in the shipping sector without requiring substantial investments for ship modifications. However, Japan encounters a roadblock due to a lack of infrastructure capable of delivering biofuels to bunker barges, hindering the widespread adoption of this environmentally friendly marine fuel.

Limited Availability and Production Capacity

Despite shipowners expressing eagerness to utilize biofuels, Japan faces a scarcity of available bunker biofuels. The country’s biofuel production capacity is constrained, and the slow demand, coupled with stagnant targets since 2017, has discouraged the establishment of commercial-scale biofuel plants. Imports seem necessary to meet the small required quantities, focusing refiners on fossil fuels.

Challenges in the Biofuel Supply Chain:

Tank trucks and steel drums currently serve as the primary means of supplying marine biofuels to barges, but these methods are impractical for commercial operations. Biofuel infrastructure, including tanks, pipelines, and berths away from refineries, is absent at bunkering ports, posing a challenge to the seamless integration of biofuels into the shipping industry.

Ammonia Emerges as a Proactive Alternative

Contrary to the challenges faced by biofuels, negotiations around ammonia as an alternative marine fuel are gaining traction in Japan. The country’s unique trend, driven by planned ammonia co-firing at coal-fired power plants, supported by government subsidies, highlights a more proactive approach. Ammonia supply chains for power plants may evolve into ammonia bunkering points, providing a viable alternative for the shipping industry in the future.

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Source: argus