How Marine Biofuel is Steering the Course Towards Sustainability

06 Mar 2024

The maritime industry, a cornerstone of global trade, faces an urgent need to navigate toward sustainability amidst growing environmental concerns. As ships crisscross the globe, they leave behind a significant environmental footprint. These emissions not only contribute to global warming but also pose serious risks to marine life and coastal communities, highlighting the pressing challenge of reducing pollution while maintaining economic efficiency.  

Enter marine biofuel, a beacon of hope on the horizon of sustainable shipping. Unlike conventional marine fuels, which are derived from crude oil and have a heavy environmental toll, marine biofuels are produced from renewable biological sources that can significantly lower the industry's carbon footprint.   

Understanding the Marine Biofuel Market 

Marine biofuels, also referred to as maritime green fuels, are derived from various renewable sources, including industrial and agricultural by-products, domestic and agricultural waste, and sewage sludge. These eco-friendly fuels are produced through processes such as the upgrading of biogas, hydrogenation of biomass, or the gasification of solid biomass. 

As per the BIS Research report, the marine biofuel market was valued at $3.99 billion in 2023 and is expected to reach $13.64 billion by 2033 at a CAGR of 13.06% from 2023 to 2033. 

As a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, the maritime industry is under pressure to reduce its environmental footprint. Renewable marine biofuels offer a viable alternative to conventional fossil fuels, providing a pathway towards greener shipping practices.  

In response to international and national targets for carbon reduction, the maritime sector is increasingly adopting biofuels. This shift not only aligns with global sustainability goals but also paves the way for a more environmentally responsible shipping industry.   

How Marine Biofuel is Impacting the Industry  

Marine biofuels present several key benefits, notably their capacity to diminish the carbon footprint, combat climate change, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to their renewable origins. Renewable diesel, produced via hydroprocessed esters and fatty acids (HVO), is particularly noted for its superior performance in cold climates, which makes it ideal for use in areas experiencing extreme weather conditions.  

In aviation, sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) acts as a direct substitute for conventional jet fuel, seamlessly fitting into current engine and infrastructure setups. This compatibility allows for an easy transition for airlines to SAF, eliminating the need for significant alterations to aircraft or fuel systems.  

Additionally, hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) is making a marked impact on various end-user industries, ranging from moderate to significant levels. As acceptance of HVO expands within the automotive, aviation, maritime, and industrial sectors, its influence on the marine biofuels market is anticipated to grow, heralding a positive shift towards more sustainable fuel options.  

Recent Development in the Marine Biofuel Market 

The marine biofuel market is poised for significant growth due to the increasing demand for bio-based sustainable fuels for clean marine transportation. Here are some recent developments in the marine biofuel industry:  

  • In June 2023, the subsidiary Eni Sustainable Mobility, part of Eni S.p.A., entered an agreement with Azimut Benetti S.p.A. to aid in reducing carbon emissions within the yachting sector. As part of this partnership, Eni S.p.A. committed to providing Azimut Benetti S.p.A. with renewable fuels derived from hydrotreated vegetable oil. 

  • Chevron Renewable Energy Group, Inc. disclosed its acquisition of Renewable Energy Group, Inc. in June 2022. This move was strategized to bolster Chevron's offerings in low-carbon and renewable energy solutions, focusing on biofuels and other renewable resources. 

  • In June 2022, Repsol initiated the delivery of sustainable aviation fuel, made from hydrotreated vegetable oil to the Spanish airline Iberia for use in commercial flights. This initiative saw an Iberia Airbus A330-200, with a passenger capacity of 288, powered by sustainable aviation fuel, marking a significant step towards eco-friendly aviation practices.  

The Rising Tide of Marine Biofuel Adoption  

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHGs): Marine biofuels offer significant reductions in GHGs throughout their lifecycle compared to traditional fossil-based marine fuels like heavy fuel oil (HFO). 

Compatibility with Existing Infrastructure: A major advantage is that some biofuels can be used as "drop-in" replacements in existing marine engines with minimal or no modifications. This eases the transition for ship owners. 

Improved Air Quality: Biofuels greatly reduce emissions of sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and particulate matter, leading to cleaner air in ports and coastal areas. 

Potential for Domestic Production: Many countries can produce biofuel feedstocks, reducing dependency on imported fossil fuels and enhancing energy security.  


While marine biofuels are not a silver bullet solution, they represent a crucial part of a diversified, sustainable energy mix essential to decarbonizing the shipping sector. As technology progresses, costs decline, and policies evolve, marine biofuels will play an increasingly important role in shaping the future of maritime transport.