Huelva Has Key Role to Play in New Fuels Era: Cepsa

by Julian Macqueen, Senior Editor, Ship & Bunker
Wednesday June 12, 2024

The port of Huelva in southern Spain wouldn't figure in a global ports' top ten, neither would it count as a top bunkering destination, but that could be about to change as the emergence of new marine fuels begins to reshape the shipping and bunkering space.

Ports, both large and small, are going to have to adapt to the new reality. And for Huelva, energy company Cepsa has big plans.

"I am very bullish on the uptake of biofuels in the short and medium term," Samir Fernandez told Ship & Bunker in an online interview.

Fernandez, who heads up marine fuels at Cepsa, favours bio-fuel in part for its flexibility as a drop-in fuel. But biofuel is one fuel option among many that ship operators are looking at.

Fernandez and his team take a proactive view of the evolving marine fuels market as encapsulated in Cepsa's Positive Motion strategy. It is a strategy designed to deliver a strong position for the company in the coming multi-fuel reality. And Huelva is a case in point.

Cepsa is developing 150,000 metric tons of annual green hydrogen production capacity at its La RĂ¡bida energy park near the port and has already begun construction of a 2G biofuels plant to flexibly produce 500,000 tons of aviation fuel and hydrogenated vegetable diesel oil.

The west Med is a busy area for shipping. As a major player with the production, storage and supply of new marine fuels in hand, how does Cepsa see the future of bunkering taking shape at Huelva?

"We see bunkering in the southern Mediterranean as a tripartite solution for customers delivered between Huelva, Algeciras and Ceuta," Fernandez said.

The Strait of Gibraltar carries a lot of ships and congestion at Algeciras can be an issue. The three ports can work closer together to expedite delivery, Fernandez explained. With one barge stationed at Huelva and five at Algeciras, barges could be moved between ports to meet demand, he said.

That demand is likely to grow as ships running on different types of fuel will require more fuelling stops. In addition, the energy intensity of the new bunker fuels implies a need for frequent refuelling as the intensity is not as strong as it is with traditional, oil-derived fuels.

With long experience in bunkers and at sea, he has been a bunker trader and a master mariner, Fernandez knows that whatever fuel a ship bunkers, its quality must be guaranteed and it must be delivered efficiently.

With the supply side covered, and by linking the three ports, Cepsa aims to meet local congestion concerns and the expected increased demand for bunkering from multi-fuel use head on.