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Green Fuels Research to head SALMO fish waste-to-biofuel project

Green Fuels Research Ltd, a subsidiary of biofuel technology developer Green Fuels Ltd is aiming to make UK shipping more sustainable with advanced renewable fuel derived from aquaculture waste. SALMO, a Maritime Research and Innovation UK (MarRI-UK) initiative supported by the Department for Transport and headed by Green Fuels, will convert waste biomass from salmon farming into drop-in fuels suitable for use in marine diesel engines.

Green Fuels Research Ltd, a subsidiary of biofuel technology developer Green Fuels Ltd has launched SALMO, a project that aims to make to produce advanced renewable marine fuel from aquaculture waste (photo courtesy Green Fuels).

A collaboration between Green Fuels Research Ltd, the University of Cardiff, and London South Bank University, the recently launched SALMO project aims to address two challenges: decarbonisation of the UK shipping industry, and sustainable management of animal by-product (ABP) waste from UK aquaculture.

The project will develop and validate a process for safely converting morts (fallen stock) and processing waste from salmon farming into renewable fuel suitable for the marine sector.

Unused potential

The UK has an active in-shore fishing and shipping fleet that is subject to considerable economic pressure and consumes an estimated 2 billion litres of marine fuel annually. There is a pressing, unmet need for a viable, sustainable supply of low-carbon fuel for marine engines and the use of such fuel is minimal at present. Meanwhile, aquaculture wastes are currently disposed of using non-productive routes such as composting or incineration.

The UK has some of the world’s leading salmon farms within a thriving aquaculture sector concentrated in Scotland and Northern Ireland. In Scotland, more than 200 fish farms operate producing more than 150 000 tonnes of salmon a year. Processing waste such as heads, skin, vescera etc produces approximately 20 000 tonnes of waste oil, and fuel from it would save more than 34 000 tonnes of CO2 per annum, said Dr Paul Hilditch, Chief Operating Officer of Green Fuels Research, during the project launch.

According to Green Fuels Research, the alternatives for sustainable marine fuel (SMF) will either be fuels derived from used cooking oil (UCO), which would be sustainable, but potentially displace feedstock from use in making road fuel or imported palm oil, which carries significant challenges around indirect land-use change (ILUC).

Other options such as electrification are only viable for specific sectors of shipping such as ferries which dock one or more times daily and can be recharged from shore. Similarly, possible alternative fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia do not have sufficient energy density for practical application, and depending on the energy source for their production, may not be fully sustainable.

These options also present commercial barriers to shipowners concerned about the stranding of assets if supply chain infrastructure is not developed.

The use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG) to supplement fossil liquid fuel can increase engine efficiency but is ultimately a dead-end route to decarbonisation as they are still fossil fuels. Business as usual for UK shipping is the continued use of fossil bunker fuels.

Expected outcomes

The new process being developed in SALMO will allow the production of drop-in renewable marine fuel for the first time from salmon fish-farming waste. The resulting renewable fuel will be a hydrocarbon blend comparable in properties to marine distillates, and so suitable as a drop-in fuel in marine engines, i.e. useable without modification to engine or fuel systems and without special restrictions on blend percentage.

This will help to dissipate any concerns from shipowners about engine compatibility and fuel stability, which may limit the use of biofuels conventionally achievable from fish waste such as biodiesel.

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