Devandran Karunakaran

Devandran Karunakaran

Lawyer - Ship Finance

Embarking on his academic journey at the University of Leicester, Devandran Karunakaran delved into law, demonstrating particular prowess in contract law. This specific legal field, which deals with the intricacies of legal and commercial agreements between businesses, became a focal point of his studies. The university, renowned for its position among top research institutions, offered him a wealth of advanced learning opportunities, further enriching his educational experience. 

His interest extended to public international law, also known as The Law of Nations, which encompasses the norms and legal guidelines pivotal for regulating international relations. This area of law resonated with him, further shaping his legal perspective. The diversity of the student body at Leicester University left a lasting impression on him, as he forged enduring friendships with peers from various backgrounds and ethnicities.

These connections have stood the test of time, with one of his university housemates even playing a significant role in his life, serving as the best man at his wedding. Active participation in the university rugby team marked another significant chapter of his university life, where he not only honed his skills but also embraced the spirit of teamwork and competition. Upon completing his postgraduate studies, he transitioned to London to kickstart his legal career, securing a coveted training contract position with a prestigious international law firm headquartered in the UK.

This move was pivotal, as training contracts are highly sought after and integral for qualifying as a UK solicitor. Over nearly 13 years, London became his second home, where he cultivated a rich network of professional contacts and personal alliances. His career journey saw him work with two international law firms and live and work in Piraeus, Greece, further broadening his professional horizons.

With a reputation for his deep technical legal knowledge, he chose to specialize in ship finance law, as well as offshore energy and renewables. In these capacities, he meticulously balanced legal expertise with commercial acumen, ensuring optimal client outcomes. In 2020, he undertook a new professional challenge, joining PT Indo Energy Solutions as an advisor to the board of directors. Despite the company being based in Indonesia, he maintained his base in Singapore, frequently commuting to various parts of Indonesia as required by his role.

Introducing DK Consultancy: Pioneering Solutions in Maritime, Offshore Energy, and Renewables

We are excited to announce the launch of DK Consultancy, a visionary enterprise founded by industry expert Devandran Karunakaran. This innovative consultancy firm is dedicated to delivering value-driven, client-focused advice in the dynamic fields of maritime, offshore energy, and renewable resources. With a commitment to excellence and a deep understanding of these specialized sectors, DK Consultancy stands ready to guide businesses through the complexities of today's market with tailor-made solutions. Join us in welcoming this new chapter in strategic consulting, where expertise meets innovation to navigate the future of these vital industries.

To know more about DKC, click the links below:

⚓ #MaritimeConsulting #OffshoreEnergy #Renewables #DKConsultancy

The commercial viability of POME as a biofuel feedstock

This article introduces the reader to POME and serves to highlight certain key risks and considerations which will need to be factored into any strategy for the commercialisation of POME as a commodity. While there are, of course, other energy markets in which POME is relevant, for example in Asia, the focus in this article is on POME as a commodity destined for the European energy market.   

What is it and why is it relevant?

Palm Oil Mill Effluent (POME) is a waste by-product resulting from the crude palm oil (CPO) milling process. This process involves using large quantities of steam and hot water to clean the palm fruit and separate the shell and cake from the fruit. The resulting waste water is directed to waste ponds. This waste water (POME) consists of roughly 1-2% oil and 98% water and solids. If left untreated, POME ponds pose harmful environmental risks including methane gas emission and pollution of waterways.

POME has been designated as an advanced biofuel feedstock under European legislation, specifically, The Renewable Energy Directive 2018/2001 (REDII). Advanced biofuels are derived from waste feedstock (e.g. POME) while first generation biofuels are derived from crops (e.g. palm). REDII promotes the use of advanced biofuels while at the same time curbing, and gradually banning in the case of biofuel derived from palm, crop-based biofuels. The REDII list of advanced biofuel feedstock is enshrined until 2030.

In essence, REDII sets renewable fuel mix targets for European Union (EU) member states and there are incentives for the use of biofuel derived from waste, such as POME. Waste feedstocks qualify for double counting – this means that each unit of waste-based biofuel counts as two units for the purpose of calculating adherence to the renewable fuel mix targets. Furthermore, there is no cap on the usage of certain waste feedstocks such as POME.

Such incentives are in line with the EU’s policy of establishing a circular economy as part of its decarbonisation strategy - in short, a promotion of the usage of waste-based advanced biofuels ahead of crop-based first generation ones – with further restrictions on palm oil (see the section on Anti-palm sentiment below).

RED II therefore set the scene for POME as a tradeable commodity in its own right. This is evidenced by the increase in POME prices since 2018 when REDII came into force. However, there are a number of potential obstacles to the commercialization of POME.

The Challenges

At its most basic, POME is a waste by-product. This leads to connected issues around sustainability, quality and quantity of product.

Sustainability issues

Always a concern when dealing with waste-based feedstock and a particular sensitivity for investment grade off-takers who have a number of concerns around sustainability to contend with, including the reputational risk of supplying non-sustainable product. Simply put, the question a buyer always has in mind: is what is being supplied really a waste by-product?

As demand for waste-based biofuels increases as part of a decarbonization strategy, so to the potential for fraudulent practices such as mixing CPO with POME to increase supposed POME volumes. This risk becomes greater in a free-market where the price of the waste by-product (POME) could go higher than the local price of the primary product (CPO).

The EU’s solution to ensure sustainability requires that all POME imported into Europe be certified – International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) or Italian National Scheme (INS) certification. The latter is required for import into Italy. For POME aggregators with ambitions of exporting to Europe where POME fetches a higher price, the certification and audit process is itself a barrier to entry from a cost and timing perspective. Furthermore, the audit process meant to ensure sustainability of product may not be full proof.

Quality issues

Conversely, untreated POME contains a significant level of moisture & impurities and metals and free fatty acid content which is to be expected from a waste by-product. Such characteristics can result in damage to the machinery and plants the feedstock is run through as well as the quality of the biodiesel produced. The solution is pre-treatment of POME but this in itself requires substantial capital outlay for a POME aggregator and exporter. The solution is an investment partner with deep pockets.

The issue of moisture content in POME has a sub-set of concerns which parties must contend with. Firstly, as a non-homogenous liquid, accurate sampling/testing of POME to determine moisture levels of a shipment of POME is not straightforward. Different testing methods may well lead to different results for the same shipment of POME. Secondly and regardless of sampling and testing method used, a high amount of free-standing water on discharge of the POME shipment at destination is a major headache for the buyer, not least the additional costs associated with disposal of the water and quality claims. 

Quantity issues

As a waste by-product largely consisting of water, a single POME pond can provide only minimal amounts of POME oil each time it is extracted. The pond then has to be left for some time to be “filled up” again before any further POME extractions can be carried out from that pond.

As such, in order for an aggregator to supply consistent quantities of 1-2,000 MT and above of POME per month for export, that aggregator needs to have an extensive internal supply chain to be able to extract POME from numerous waste ponds in numerous CPO mills, repeat the process and store the POME in intermediate hubs and then transport and aggregate the POME at its export facility. All the while ensuring that any delays in the supply chain are catered for by ensuring that sufficient POME buffer stock is already at the export facility to avoid demurrage costs resulting from those delays.

A further complication is that the cloud point of POME is relatively low which means that heating systems need to be in place in order to transport the POME and this of course adds to the cost of establishing such a supply chain.

Establishing such a supply chain is a challenge at the best of times but is especially the case in a country such as Indonesia, the largest exporter of CPO and consequentially, the country with the highest amount of available POME. The supply chain needs to be able to access rural areas across the archipelago as well as having local storage capabilities and an extensive local human network, all the while ensuring that sustainability standards are met.

Not only does it take time to develop such a robust supply chain, but ultimately, it requires a substantial capital outlay from the start and this in itself is a barrier to entry.

Anti-palm sentiment

RED II imposed a gradual ban on palm oil into Europe. This anti-palm sentiment is driven by a number of environmental and social concerns. Generally, that the demand for palm oil leads to deforestation and specifically that the demand for palm-based biofuels leads to a change of land usage (i.e., palm destined for biofuel manufacture is grown on previously non-agricultural land or that because the crop is used for biofuels and not food or animal feed, further land has to be cultivated to grow palm for those latter purposes). It is argued that these changes in land usage increase greenhouse gas emissions. There are also further food security arguments. 

An analysis of the justifications of such reasoning and any counter arguments are not the point of this article. Rather, what is important is that Europe does have an anti-palm sentient. This leads to two potential risks that any party involved in the European bound POME trade should take into account. 

Firstly, while REDII clearly distinguishes between palm oil (crop) and POME (waste) with the latter enjoying the incentives afforded to advanced, circular economy biofuels, the anti-palm sentiment has created uncertainty as to how Europe will view POME after 2030. Conversely, it can be argued that banning POME imports would be counter to the circular economy strategy and more importantly, would make it difficult to meet the targets for renewable energy fuel mix from advanced biofuels.

Secondly, even if POME remains on the list of advanced biofuel feedstock, European energy suppliers may shy away from it due to reputational and public pressure considerations.

In any event, even if POME were to eventually fall out of favour in Europe, there is likely to remain a demand for POME-based biofuels in other parts of the world though it would of course be prudent to conduct a similar analysis on the drivers, risks and economics. 

There are clear policy drivers for the promotion of POME as a biofuel feedstock, and these are based around the key urgent issue which the world is facing and trying to tackle, i.e. decarbonization. 

A clearly thought out strategy, which identifies and plans for potential risks associated with the POME trade, is key to the monetization of this waste by-product which if successfully implemented, will do its part in the decarbonization drive.

This article is by no means an exhaustive analysis – there are many related issues which require detailed discussion and advice and which an introductory article could not do justice. For example, certain inherent country risks and POME pricing mechanics.

If this article has piqued your interest and if you want to learn more, do get in touch through the DKC website contact page, LinkedIn or by sending us an email at

January 2024

 5 Reasons Why You Should Invest in Renewable Energy: A Simple Overview of the Benefits of Renewable Energy

Published on: 01/18/2024

In an age where climate change and environmental concerns dominate headlines, the shift towards renewable energy sources has gained tremendous momentum. The world is increasingly recognizing the importance of transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy to mitigate the effects of climate change and ensure a sustainable future. Investing in renewable energy is a responsible choice and a smart one. In this article, we will provide a simple overview of the five key reasons you should consider investing in renewable energy.

Environmental Benefits

One of the most compelling reasons to invest in renewable energy is its significant positive environmental impact. Traditional energy sources, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, emit harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when burned for electricity generation. These emissions are a leading cause of global warming and climate change, which can result in severe consequences such as rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and disruptions in ecosystems.

On the other hand, renewable energy sources produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions during their operation. Solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectric dams, and geothermal systems generate electricity without releasing harmful pollutants. We can reduce our carbon footprint and combat climate change by shifting to renewables. Investing in renewable energy is an investment in a cleaner and healthier planet for current and future generations.

Energy Independence

Investing in renewable energy can also contribute to energy independence. Relying on fossil fuels often means dependence on foreign oil and gas suppliers, which can lead to geopolitical tensions and economic vulnerabilities. By harnessing renewable energy sources domestically, nations can reduce their reliance on imported fuels and strengthen their energy security.

Solar panels and wind turbines can be installed locally, providing a decentralized energy system less susceptible to supply disruptions. This enhances national security, creates jobs, and stimulates economic growth within the country. By investing in renewables, nations can take control of their energy future and reduce their vulnerability to global energy market fluctuations.

Economic Benefits

Renewable energy investments offer substantial economic benefits. The renewable energy sector has experienced rapid growth in recent years, creating many job opportunities. As technology advances and production scales up, the demand for skilled workers in the renewable energy industry continues to rise. This growth provides employment opportunities and stimulates economic development in regions that embrace renewable energy projects.

Furthermore, renewable energy investments can lead to cost savings in the long run. Once installed, solar panels and wind turbines have minimal operational costs and can generate electricity for decades. As technology improves and economies of scale are realized, the cost of renewable energy production continues to decline, making it a cost-effective choice for homeowners and businesses. Investing in renewable energy can lead to substantial savings on energy bills and a positive return on investment over time.

Diversification of Energy Sources

Diversifying the energy mix ensures a stable and reliable energy supply. Overreliance on a single energy source, such as coal or natural gas, can lead to supply disruptions and price volatility. Renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal, offer a diversified and resilient energy portfolio.

Governments, businesses, and individuals can reduce their vulnerability to energy supply shocks and price fluctuations by investing in renewable energy. Renewables buffer against disruptions and ensure a consistent power supply when integrated into the existing energy infrastructure. Diversification promotes competition in the energy market, leading to more competitive pricing and innovation.

Long-Term Sustainability

The most compelling reason to invest in renewable energy is its long-term sustainability. Fossil fuels are finite resources that eventually run out, increasing competition for dwindling reserves and higher energy prices. In contrast, renewable energy sources are virtually inexhaustible. The sun will continue to shine, the wind will keep blowing, and the Earth will maintain its geothermal heat for billions of years.

Investing in renewables is an investment in a sustainable energy future. It ensures that future generations can access clean and abundant energy sources. Moreover, the development and deployment of renewable technologies drive innovation, leading to even more efficient and affordable solutions over time.

Investing in renewable energy is a moral obligation and a wise financial decision. The environmental benefits, energy independence, economic advantages, diversification of energy sources, and long-term sustainability make renewable energy an attractive option for governments, businesses, and individuals. By supporting and investing in renewable energy projects, we can collectively contribute to a greener, more sustainable, and prosperous future for our planet. So, why wait? Join the renewable energy revolution today and be a part of the solution to our global energy and environmental challenges.