Sumitomo Heavy Industries meets the growing demand for methanol-powered tankers with its own design, which has been granted an approval in principle (AiP) from ClassNK
ClassNK is at the centre of a number of shipbuilding design innovations in Japan.
ClassNK confirmed the design’s compliance with IMO’s Interim Guidelines for the Safety of Ships using Methyl/Ethyl Alcohol as fuels published in December 2020, and the Guidelines for Ships Using Low-Flashpoint Fuels published by the Society in 2019.
Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine Engineering announced “In detail design, regarding methanol fuel, due consideration is required to reduce the risk of fire and leakage by its low flashpoint and toxicity. Our tanker is designed to install a main engine and methanol fuel supply system such as fuel pump, fuel tank and fuel control system which can use both methanol fuel and fuel oil. Our tanker also uses double-walled fuel oil piping and a leak detection system to ensure higher safety against leakage and fire.”
Since the safety requirements for the use of low-flashpoint fuels such as methanol were not clearly provided in the IGF Code, ClassNK developed its own guidelines in 2019 for such fuels based on IMO discussions and technological trends at that time. Following the publication of the IMO interim guidelines in December 2020, which was approved by the MSC 102, ClassNK carried out the design review for the AiP based on the IMO interim guidelines and ClassNK guidelines.
In developing the methanol tanker design, Sumitomo Heavy Industries joins established methanol-powered tanker builder Hyundai Mipo of South Korea, which has built several methanol tankers for Waterfront Shipping.
In China, GSM is building a series of methanol tankers for Proman Shipping, and Danish giant AP Moller-Maersk has a pioneering plan to use a renewable version of the fuel to power the world’s first carbon-neutral liner by 2023.
Other adopters of methanol as a marine fuel include Eastern Pacific Shipping, which signed a memorandum of understanding with methanol manufacturer OCI and engine manufacturer MAN Energy Solutions to develop methanol and ammonia as marine fuels, and Ardmore Shipping, which is taking part in a collaboration to use methanol as the carrier for hydrogen fuel cells for the marine sector.
Sumitomo Heavy Industries Marine Engineering is part of the giant Japanese conglomerate, part of which, Sumitomo Chemicals, has begun exploring a possible combination of a propane dehydrogenation (PDH) technology that converts propane gas into propylene, with another technology that efficiently synthesises methanol, using hydrogen and carbon dioxide (CO2), by-products from PDH.
This initiative is under consideration in Sumitomo Chemical’s petrochemical complex in Singapore, and is supported by the Singapore Economic Development Board as it can increase economic activity and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Sumitomo Chemical is undertaking a joint research project with Shimane University concerning a technology to synthesise methanol from CO2 efficiently. Since this synthesising process requires hydrogen (a by-product of PDH technology), the company is considering a possible application of these two technologies so that both hydrogen and CO2 can be effectively used.