iScience, Volume 23, 20 November 2020,
The greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the marine sector were around 2.6% of world GHG emissions in 2015 and are expected to increase 50%–250% to 2050 under a “business as usual” scenario, making the decarbonization of this fossil fuel-intensive sector an urgent priority. Biofuels, which come in various forms, are one of the most promising options to replace existing marine fuels for accomplishing this in the short to medium term. Some unique challenges, however, impede biofuels penetration in the shipping sector, including the low cost of the existing fuels, the extensive present-day refueling infrastructure, and the exclusion of the sector from the Paris climate agreement. To address this, it is necessary to first identify those biofuels best suited for deployment as marine fuel. In this work, the long list of possible biofuel candidates has been narrowed down to four high-potential options—bio-methanol, bio-dimethyl ether, bio-liquefied natural gas, and bio-oil. These options are further evaluated based on six criteria—cost, potential availability, present technology status, GHG mitigation potential, infrastructure compatibility, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) compatibility—via both an extensive literature review and stakeholder discussions. These four candidates turn out to be relatively evenly matched overall, but each possesses certain strengths and shortcomings that could favor that fuel under specific circumstances, such as if compatibility with existing shipping infrastructure or with CCS deployment become pivotal requirements. Furthermore, we pay particular attention to the possibility of integrating deployment of these biofuels with CCS to further reduce marine sector emissions. It is shown that this aspect is presently not on the radar of the industry stakeholders but is likely to grow in importance as CCS acceptability increases in the broader green energy sector.