well to wake

What well-to-wake decarbonization means for shipowners

Ship owners, operators and managers tend to think in terms of total cost of ownership. Bunker fuel is one crucial cost input – meaning that every voyage truly begins with onshore and offshore fuel production. This adds a layer of complexity to marine decarbonization. As shipowners start to expand their vision of sustainability beyond onboard fuel consumption, they need to account for upstream fuel production processes and the emissions that result from them.

This approach – known as “well-to-wake” – is critical to assessing lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from marine fuels. By understanding the steps and challenges of well-to-wake emissions monitoring, marine stakeholders can gain a comprehensive view of their impact, as well as that of their partners.

What does well-to-wake mean?

“Well-to-wake” refers to the entire process of fuel production, delivery and use onboard ships, and all emissions produced therein.

  • Raw material acquisition: covers emissions from the extraction, obtention, and collection of necessary raw materials (e.g., oil, gas, biomass, hydrogen, carbon dioxide) and their transportation to the fuel manufacturing facility
  • Fuel production: covers emissions from the fuel manufacturing processes which transforms raw materials into marine fuel (e.g., refining, fermentation, electrolysis, synthesis)  
  • Transportation & storage: covers emissions from the transportation of marine fuel via pipeline, truck or ship to onshore, quayside and offshore storage units and bunkering facilities, sometimes including compression or liquefaction
  • Bunkering: covers emissions from transfer of marine fuel from storage facilities to ship tanks
  • Onboard storage: covers emissions occurring while marine fuel is held onboard ships under specific temperature and pressure conditions
  • Energy conversion: covers emissions from the use of fuel onboard ships as they operate and travel, expelling GHG emissions directly into the environment

Well-to-wake emissions Explained

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Facing new sustainability benchmarks and regulations

Managing well-to-wake emissions is increasingly important, as the definition of sustainability has expanded to include all scopes of emissions. Maritime stakeholders’ claims about supply chain practices are falling under greater scrutiny, with critics calling for transparency within and across industries.

Such calls have gained traction with regulatory bodies, particularly in the marine sector. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) recently voted for sustainability measures such as the EEXI[1] and CII[2], which aim to reduce ships’ carbon emissions. These regulations support IMO’s overall goal of reducing vessels’ carbon intensity from international shipping by at least 40% by 2030 compared to 2008.

At regional level, European countries are seeking to limit emissions, with some governments implementing strict legislation[3]. The EU Commission has proposed the Fit for 55 package, which adapts a well-to-wake approach through its FuelEU Maritime component. In addition, the EU is considering other legislative mechanisms to reduce GHG emissions through its Emissions Trading System (ETS), Energy Taxation Directive (ETD) & Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM).

Although legislation is growing, owners and operators investigating well-to-wake emissions today must collect data from numerous sources and ensure the origin, recording and traceability of their bunkering. As this is currently done on a voluntary basis, it is harder for shipowners to assess upstream emissions.

Moving to true, sustainable alternative fuels

Shipowners turning to alternative, low-carbon or carbon-free fuels will need to be even more conscious of supply chain emissions than they are of those using traditional marine fuels. Production processes of low- and zero-carbon fuels – including for example methanol, ammonia and hydrogen – are often based on fossil resources like coal or natural gas. While the use of the fuel onboard may emit no or little GHG, the production process itself may have a large environmental impact.

The shipping industry is already looking into production processes that use renewable energy from wind and solar power and renewable feedstocks to make green fuels. Still, getting to net-zero shipping will mean developing GHG-free supply chains for alternative fuels that account for all upstream activities.

Taking a proactive approach to well-to-wake shipping

While shipowners cannot build a zero-emission marine world alone, they may play an active role in creating a well-to-wake vision of sustainability.

Assessing the impact of upcoming regulations concerning well-to-wake emissions may be a starting point. When considering alternative fuels, care should be taken to evaluate whether these fuels will be sustainable from the production stage. Cooperation efforts that include both marine stakeholders and fuel suppliers are likely to ensure steady demand and resolve this issue.

Shipowners can leverage various tools to contribute to the development of solutions, including:

  • Partnerships including fuel producers
  • Joint development programs focused on supply chain sustainability
  • Coalitions that champion maritime decarbonization
Benjamin Lechaptois - BV Sustainability Strategy Leader

Sustainability Strategy Leader

Bureau Veritas M&O

It is impossible to talk about decarbonizing shipping without addressing the sector’s ties to the energy production industry. Shipowners need to extend their purview to that larger ecosystem, recognizing that sustainability concerns exist at every stage of the supply chain. By advocating for a well-to-wake approach, shipowners take a crucial step toward advancing marine decarbonization.

Supporting well-to-wake sustainability for shipowners

As a classification society, Bureau Veritas rigorously follows changing regulations surrounding marine sustainability, helping shipowners stay informed and compliant. Our experts take a comprehensive approach to emissions monitoring and elimination for ships throughout the supply chain.

By leveraging the power of Bureau Veritas Group, we offer shipowners access to experts in upstream and downstream fuel production and use. Bureau Veritas auditors can perform third party verification of emissions assessments conducted by other bodies to help marine stakeholders determine the impact of fuel suppliers. In addition, our work with Bureau Veritas Solutions – Marine & Offshore enables clients to reduce energy consumption, integrate new fuels onboard, and limit emissions.

[1] Efficiency Existing Ship Index
[2] Carbon Intensity Indicator
[3] https://oecdecoscope.blog/2021/12/16/toward-net-zero-emissions-in-denmark/