Darren Shelton, Chief Product Officer and Co-Founder of Fueltrust © Fueltrust
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How will a certain batch of fuel perform in your engine and what will be the emissions? Questions like these are becoming increasingly important in a multi-fuel environment with tightening emissions regulation. Fueltrust wants to answer them [ds_preview]

How did you get started and what does Fueltrust offer to the market?

Darren Shelton: We began looking at blockchain as a technology a couple of years ago, because some of the industry majors would start to use it for their post trade finance settlements. That led to looking at an application around IMO 2020 for ship owner compliance.

Jonathan Arneault: We approached this not as a technology project but as solving three of the biggest problems, we saw in maritime that coalesced: digitization of documents and ensuring compliance. Then we realized that all concentrated around what was going on in the fuel. So, we took a fundamentally different approach in trying to solve these things, looking at it from the fuel first and how it impacts anti-fraud, ensuring volume deliveries and what is actually being emitted.

By following the fuel, its transactional information and – more importantly – its chemical information. That’s how we are able to provide all these parties a significant insight into what is happening and to enable differentiation. Bunkers, because it is residual fuel, vary widely. They are the very last part of the refining process. That is why you need a certificate of analysis on that fuel to make sure it is safe to use in your ship and meets compliance. Likewise, buying residual fuels and blending them leaves gaps in knowledge about what is in that feedstock. We look at the energy supply chain for maritime and look at how it flows and build the logic in the blockchain and the privacy and security of the transactional information that energy producers, energy suppliers and fleet consumers can sign on to.

jonathan arneault fueltrust
Jonathan Arneault, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Fueltrust © Fueltrust

How does the actual tracking of the fuel and of its quality work?

Arneault: The secret sauce is our Digital Chemist. We are taking the ISO certified lab information and create a digital twin of the fuel, down to molecular level. We are monitoring and predicting every step in its lifecycle. We can actually say: This fuel will do that when it goes trough your engine at x rpm, x temperature or x load. We can tell you the behavioral patterns, the sediments and what will be the output in your engine: thermal output in BTU, emissions – carbon, NOx, SOx, even carbon particulates. We are able to tell all that based on the fuel as opposed to machinery or sensors – and we can tell you before you buy it.

Where do you get the data from? Do users have to upload or enter it?

Shelton: Manual entry is hopefully not needed. In the perfect world, the data that is being produced by our customers or their labs and is digitally input via API. We have used OCR and AI technology to read typical documents, but – ideally – they don’t have to manually input anything.

Jonathan: We have a UI that allows a non-digitized player to take a picture of a bunker delivery note or fuel receipt with his phone and send it in a secure email into the system. Our AI reads it, makes sense of the handwriting and digitizes it. We also built our system to be headless. Customers can either directly interface with us with their API, or they can directly interface via blockchain and not use our user interface.

Are alternative fuels also being covered?

Shelton: We are running two proofs of concept right now: one on decarbonization efforts for a huge fleet of engines, the other on biofuels. This is still a learning process for us as well. It is not only about fuel prices. We are doing analyses on biofuel to see how they react with traditional engines, what is the btu output and emissions output versus the cost.

Arneault: With our Carbon Baseline application we can even go back in time, all the to 2009 – if you have the documentation like transactional information from fuel purchases and engine maintenance logs. We can do what we do in real time today on your engine’s performance and emissions and can tell you exactly what your serial numbered engine produced year by year.

Shelton: Looking at a biofuel versus VLSFO or MGO, for example, we can say that your carbon output is this much lower, so the carbon credit will actually offset the cost. We are looking at how the fleet can make greener decisions that are price differentiated. We are not a carbon trading platform, but we produce certificates that you can take to the market outside.

So, besides energy majors, fuel suppliers and shipowners, you are also targeting the cargo owners’ side?

Arneault: We don’t have it yet, but we will have a product that will produce a report for the actual cargo shipper that says that a certain ship had a green voyage. That will also allow the shipper to break down their actual carbon amount for the voyage port to port.

Interview: Felix Selzer