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Seas of change

26 August 2021

bp trading & shipping shares some of the steps that the shipping industry can take towards decarbonization...

Last February, bp launched our new ambition to be a net zero company by 2050 or sooner and to help the world get to net zero. At bp trading & shipping, we believe we can help to drive change in the maritime transport sector. We want to develop and deploy solutions that meet the energy and shipping needs of our customers while also being part of advancing the transition to a low carbon economy. 


However, maritime transport is critical to the smooth functioning of the global economy, representing around 90% of trade worldwide. Decarbonization must be a priority.


“Achieving decarbonization in shipping will require a step-change from within our industry, and it will be complex. But I believe there’s a real opportunity for bp to help create change now.”


Carol Howle, EVP trading & shipping


We take a look at some of bp trading & shipping’s work to decarbonize shipping, from alternative fuels to advanced technologies:



We see huge potential in biofuels. By turning sustainable biomass feedstocks into biofuels and blending this with traditional marine fuels, we can help reduce carbon emissions in the marine sector. 

We are increasing the number of trials of biofuel blends on bp operated vessels and are conducting dedicated emissions monitoring trials and life-cycle-analysis studies to learn more about the emissions created by different fuel blends. We are establishing biofuel supplies for marine customers in key ports around the world through bp marine, our marine fuels supply business. We want to grow our supply network as the market evolves. 

And new fuels may feature as part of the fuel mix solution in the future. That’s why bp is actively working with industry partners to develop fuels from alternative, sustainable feedstocks, such as forestry and agricultural residues. 

We are not looking at biofuels alone and are collaborating with Castrol, our lubricants business, to test high performance lubricants for marine engines running on biofuels. These lubricants are being used on bp operated vessels and are available to third parties via Castrol’s supply network in over 800 ports and 80 countries around the world.

Other lower carbon fuels

No single fuel alone can meet the needs of the shipping industry, so we are looking at other lower-carbon marine fuel sources too.

We anticipate that fuels such as hydrogen, methanol and ammonia will play a key role in decarbonizing international shipping. We want to make these low carbon fuels more widely available to the shipping industry as suitable engines come to market. 

We are working with our key suppliers to increase the circularity of our fuel supply chain. We have commitments in place for the supply of marine fuel produced from used lubricant oils in the US and Australia and are marketing advanced methanol produced from non-recyclable waste as a marine fuel in Europe.


Vessel monitoring and optimization

We look to reduce emissions by continuously seeking to optimize the way we manage and operate our vessels. We have invested in advanced technologies that give us detailed data about vessel performance and the related fuel consumption in real time. In addition, our vessels are equipped with underwater cameras that provide a visual aid to monitor and confirm the biofouling accumulation on the hull.  Both visual and performance monitoring data allows us to make robust decisions about, for example, how and when we clean the hull of a ship, to improve fuel consumption. 

We are also investing in cutting-edge coating technologies and energy saving devices. Advanced hull coatings with enhanced anti-fouling properties are being applied to our mariner class product tankers, whilst innovative ultrasonic antifouling devices will be trialled in hard-to-access areas of the hulls – both of which can help reduce hull fouling and improve vessel performance. We are continually assessing and trialling technologies to optimise and improve the efficiency of our operated fleet. 

bp charters, on average, over 200 vessels at any one time. We are working to improve the monitoring of these third-party vessels and to establish a framework to support reducing the associated [GHG] emissions over time. This includes developing a vessel evaluation tool to factor in the environmental performance of third-party vessels when making chartering decisions. We are also exploring innovative benefit sharing arrangements with time charter partners who implement measures on their vessels which improve performance and result in GHG emission reductions.  We will share our operational experience from energy saving initiatives with our chartering partners to help maximise our contribution to improving performance across the industry.


Methane measurement

In line with bp’s net zero ambition and aims, we aim to reduce methane intensity within our shipping operations, including reducing the methane intensity of our bp operated LNG carriers by 20% by 2030, and 50% by 2050.

Measurement will be an important part of reaching this bp shipping aim and we are currently working to equip our partnership class vessels, the largest LNG vessels we have in our fleet, with methane monitoring equipment to identify and quantify actual methane emissions in real time. Once complete, the data gathered will help us drive solutions for reducing the methane intensity of these vessels.