PyroMar: Novel fuel components make shipping more environmentally friendly

Researchers at Fraunhofer UMSICHT map the entire process chain for the production of bio-based blending components.

PyroMar fuel

Alternative for more sustainable operation of maritime bunkers.

Production of environmentally friendly fuel blends

Second-generation biomass is used to produce novel blended fuels.

Project goals: Reduction of sulfur dioxide and CO2 emissions

In the PyroMar project, fuel components made from biogenic residues and wastes are being developed for the operation of ocean-going vessels. Blending these components to fossil marine fuels creates environmentally friendly fuel blends. This contributes to reducing emissions of sulfur dioxide and CO2 caused by shipping.

To date, shipping is one of the largest emitters of sulfur oxides and CO2. Since 2015, ocean-going vessels may only use fuels with a maximum sulfur content of 0.1 % by mass when operated within so-called Emission Control Areas (ECAs). As a result of further global requirements to reduce exhaust emissions, the limits are also being continuously tightened outside these zones. For example, a new regulation issued in 2020 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) limits the sulfur content in fuel even in the open sea.

In the short term, therefore, new low-sulfur marine fuels are needed that make shipping more environmentally friendly. PyroMar provides practical solutions and enables the production of blend components based on bio-based residues and wastes to partially replace petroleum-based fuels. Thanks to the novel components, low-sulfur blended fuels ("fuel blends") are created that may also be used within the Emission Control Areas. This way, low-emission operation of ocean-going vessels inside and outside ECAs with sustainable fuel shares can be guaranteed.

Holistic production of bio-based blending components

Straw and other previously unused biogenic residues and wastes such as leaves, landscaping hay or shrub cuttings serve as raw materials for the bio-based blending components. Used cooking oil (UCO) is already used in established biofuel pathways and therefore is not covered by PyroMar. Ablative fast pyrolysis converts the feedstock to pyrolysis oils with high yields. In order to lower the acid number of the pyrolysis oils, they are esterified with long-chained alcohols produced from lignocellulosic biomass. The catalytic production of the long-chain alcohols from straw-derived ethanol follows a route that was also developed at Fraunhofer UMSICHT. The laboratory for fuel and lubricant research of the project partner LKV of the University of Rostock identifies relevant blending ratios with marine fuels and ensures the PyroMar fuel blends to comply with the requirements of ISO 8217. Engine tests on a medium-speed single-cylinder research engine will demonstrate that no modifications to the engine are required when using the blended fuels and thus the existing tank infrastructure can be retained.

Environmental and economic sustainability assessments and market considerations

An environmental and economic sustainability assessment completes the project. ifeu – Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg gGmbH performs the environmental sustainability assessment and analyzes the biomass potentials as well as the sales markets. Fraunhofer UMSICHT evaluates the economic efficiency of the process. The results serve as a basis for recommendations for action for politics and the public sector. In order to ensure a private-sector realization, the consideration of the legal framework conditions are just as much a part of PyroMar as the application-oriented discussion of the results with industrial waste disposal companies, chemical companies, refineries, shipping companies and port operators.

Project result: Sustainable operation of ocean-going vessels

PyroMar's research team has succeeded in developing a holistic process for the production of biogenic blending components, thus enabling the manufacture of environmentally friendly fuel blends for ocean-going shipping. These blends offer a promising alternative for the more sustainable operation of ocean-going vessels. PyroMar is thus contributing significantly to future environmentally-friendly maritime fuels.

Project partners

  • Fraunhofer Institute for Environmental, Safety and Energy Technology UMSICHT (Coortinator)
  • University of Rostock, Chair of Piston Engines and Internal Combustion Engines (LKV)
  • ifeu - Institute for Energy and Environmental Research Heidelberg gGmbH

Duration: January 2020 to December 2022
Funding note: 03EI5412