Rio Tinto and BP are planning a major biofuel trial on a capesize bulker.

The two companies will test the lower-carbon bunkers over a year using Rio Tinto’s 205,000-dwt RTM Tasman (built 2013), which will ply transatlantic and transpacific routes in a test that is one of the longest to date for biofuels.

The results will help the major charterer of dry cargo tonnage study ways to reduce carbon emissions from its fleet and decide its future biofuels strategy.

Laure Baratgin, head of commercial operations at Anglo-Australian mining giant Rio Tinto, said: “Sustainable biofuels have the potential to be an important transition fuel on the way to net-zero marine emissions and we are pleased to be working with BP to carry out this long-term trial.

“A longer-duration trial will provide important information on the potential role and wide-scale use of biofuels, and aligns with our goals to reduce marine emissions across our value chain and support efforts to decarbonise the maritime industry.”

Sven Boss-Walker, senior vice president for refining and products trading at BP, said biofuels are an important transition fuel for the short and medium term.

“We’re proud to be working with Rio Tinto to support their work to decarbonise. These trials are part of our ongoing efforts to help accelerate the shipping industry’s energy transition,” he added.

The extended trial follows a successful journey on the RTM Tasman after it refuelled with biofuel in Rotterdam in March for the first time.

It then picked up its first load of the trial at the Iron Ore Co of Canada’s Sept-Iles port in Quebec in April.

All biofuel refuelling during the trial will be at Rotterdam.

The group will use BP’s B30 biofuel blend composed of 30% fatty acid methyl esters (FAME), blended with very low sulphur fuel oil.

This should result in a CO2 emissions cut of up to 26%.

FAME is a renewable alternative fuel or biodiesel produced largely from recycled cooking oils and renewable oil sources.

It has physical properties similar to conventional diesel, and requires no modifications to the engine or vessel.

Anglo Eastern analysing results

Ship manager Anglo Eastern will work with the groups, analysing a series of engine and fuel performance factors, including engine efficiency and fuel consumption, corrosion and degradation, microbial growth, temperature impact, fuel-switching impacts and fuel stability.

Rio Tinto is also speeding up the delivery of its climate commitments on shipping.

It has delivered a 30% intensity reduction on its owned and time-chartered fleet from a 2008 baseline, and is on track to meet the International Maritime Organization’s 2030 targets of a 40% reduction in emissions five years early, by 2025.