December 13, 2023

Low Carbon GIA roundtable explores Chain of Custody models for certification of alternative fuels


The role of Chain of Custody models and their potential application for sustainability and lifecycle emissions of marine fuel in accelerating shipping’s decarbonization was the focus of the “Chain of Custody models for sustainability and lifecycle GHG emissions of marine fuel” roundtable hosted by the Global Industry Alliance to Support Low Carbon Shipping (Low Carbon GIA) at IMO Headquarters, London on 13 December. In the context of the roundtable, the term “Chain of Custody models” refers to the various traceability systems where different levels of physical connection can exist between the low emission fuel and the end user.

Consideration of the most appropriate Chain of Custody models for sustainability and lifecycle GHG emissions from marine fuels will be important in supporting the emergence and scale-up of certified zero or near-zero GHG emission fuels that will enable the industry to meet the Levels of Ambition in the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy.

During the roundtable, participants representing several Members States and observer organizations to the IMO, as well as members of the Low Carbon GIA, explored the various Chain of Custody models that exist (segregated, mass balance, book and claim). Participants discussed the pros and cons for each model, their potential applicability for the maritime sector and impact on certification. Some current fuel certification systems are based on a mass balance model where a physical connection between the low emission fuel and the end user is required. However, this model can potentially limit the market for low emission fuels.

The roundtable acknowledged the importance and timely discussion around this topic and recognised that regardless of the model, appropriate boundaries and scope of the model will need to be agreed. Furthermore, the roundtable explored the possibility of different Chain of Custody models running in parallel and over different time periods (e.g. accepting book and claim for a transitional period to increase uptake and scale-up of alternative fuels, and then transitioning to a mass balance model).

Reflections of the Low Carbon Roundtable were subsequently shared at the Expert Workshop on the life cycle GHG intensity of marine fuels (GHG-EW 4) which was organized by IMO on 14 and 15 December 2023 to support the further development of the IMO Life cycle GHG intensity assessment (LCA) framework.

The Low Carbon GIA is a public-private partnership established under the framework of the IMO GreenVoyage2050 Project. Under its workstream on Alternative Fuels, the alliance has been actively working on addressing barriers to the uptake of alternative fuels and developed studies and tools to support increased understanding of this subject matter. This includes a regulatory mapping exercise with respect to the use of alternative marine fuels (MEPC 80/INF.17) and a study on Sustainability criteria and life cycle GHG emission assessment methods and standards for alternative marine fuels (ISWG-GHG 11/2/5).

The IMO-GreenVoyage2050 Project was established in May 2019 to support developing countries, in meeting their commitment towards relevant climate change and energy efficiency goals for international shipping. GreenVoyage2050 has been extended to run until 2030 and will support developing countries in achieving the Levels of Ambition set out in the 2023 IMO GHG Strategy.