Methanol has proven to be a safe marine fuel and has the backing of IMO following its approval, said experts during Riviera’s Methanol: the simple facts webinar
IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee approved interim guidelines for the use of methyl and ethyl alcohol on ships during meetings in November 2020.
These guidelines include provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel.
The Sub-Committee on Carriage of Cargoes and Containers developed the guidelines in the context of its work related to the IGF Code.
IMO’s approval was applauded by panellists during Riviera’s Methanol: the simple facts webinar, which was held on 26 November as part of Riviera’s Marine Fuels Webinar Week.
Panellists included Methanol Institute chief operating officer Chris Chatterton, Stena Teknik newbuilding project manager Jacob Norrby, Proman Shipping commercial manager Matthias Classen, MAN Energy Solutions director of new technologies Kjeld Aabo and Methanex Europe director for market development EMEA Ayça Yalçın,
Mr Chatterton said methanol’s inclusion in the IGF Code will enable more shipping companies and vessel owners to convert vessels to use methanol as fuel and consider methanol when planning newbuilding projects.
He said the next milestone should be passed in 2021 when the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) develops standards for methyl/ethyl alcohol as a marine fuel.
“Methanol is increasingly seen as one of the candidate fuels to be used in the decarbonisation of shipping, most resembling a drop-in fuel,” said Mr Chatterton.
“Most infrastructure can be repurposed at a fraction of the cost of cryogenic fuel and engines can be more tightly tuned since ‘fuel flexibility’ is not required.” Methanol can have 99.85% purity irrespective of production.
More operators are taking up methanol as a marine fuel. Stena Teknik has operated Stena Germanica cruise-ferry on methanol fuel since its conversion in 2015.
Mr Norrby said this 1,300-passenger ship has more than 10,000 methanol running hours on its four-stroke engines.
“Bunkering is by truck on the shoreside to a pump station,” he said. “As a marine fuel, methanol is clean burning and good on engine maintenance.”
Stena converted a ballast water tank on Stena Germanica to store methanol securely on board.
Waterfront Shipping operates 11 ships on methanol, mainly for transporting this petrochemical feedstock worldwide. Ms Yalçın said the fleet of 49,000-dwt tankers had more than 80,000 running hours and over five years of service burning methanol in dual-fuel engines.
“Methanol is clean burning, with low emissions, is biodegradable in water and is IMO Tier III compliant without needing after treatment,” she said.
“It has similar bunkering to conventional marine fuels and is a liquid at ambient temperatures and pressures, so it is a less-costly fuel conversion for adapting dual-fuel engines,” Ms Yalçın added.
A fleet of 49,000-dwt methanol-powered product/chemical tankers is being built for the Proman Stena Bulk joint venture, with the latest vessel coming in 2022.
Mr Classen said this tanker, Stena Prosperous, will have 18 cargo tanks and MAN B&W dual-fuel main engines (6G50ME-C9.6 MW). “When methanol is mixed with water they will make the IMO Tier III standard,” he said.
“It will be traded on the open market, with no time charters, for three years to earn experience and demonstrate to the market,” Mr Classen explained. Stena Prosperous will then go on term charter to Proman. It will join Stena ProPatria and Stena ProMare in the Proman Stena fleet.
MAN’s Mr Aabo explained how these dual-fuel engines will not require selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to remove NOx from the exhaust.
“It will be in compliance with IMO Tier III without an SCR by mixing water into the methanol,” he said.
These ME-LGIM methanol engines’ combustion principle is based on the diesel cycle, as are MAN’s engines burning LNG, LPG, ethane and ammonia. “We will provide technology, so different fuels can be chosen,” said Mr Aabo. MAN has sold around 26 methanol dual-fuel engines since 2015.
With growing methanol availability in ports and IMO’s approval, more vessels will be built, and ships converted to this low emissions fuel.
Attendees of the webinar were almost unanimous in their agreement (95%) that a conversion to methanol fuelling is technically feasible.
Answers to poll questions are listed below:
How future-proof is methanol as a marine fuel?
Good for 5 years: 9%
Good for 10 years: 22%
Good for 20 years: 34%
Good for 50 years: 28%
Good for 100 years: 7%
A non-starter: 0
Where shall the producers and/or the Methanol Institute support more or bring in new ideas?
Another area not listed above: 7%
My major concern when it comes to methanol as a marine fuel is...
A factor not listed above: 6%
Methanol as a marine fuel is the safest of the emergent next generation fuels
If methanol became long-term cost competitive with marine gasoil – how likely would you consider a more extensive embarkment on conversions?
1 - Absolute certainty: 31%
2 – 43%
3 – 15%
4 – 8%
5 - A complete non-starter. No chance: 3%
Webinar Methanol: the simple facts panellists were: Methanol Institute chief operating officer Chris Chatterton, Stena Teknik newbuilding project manager Jacob Norrby, MAN Energy Solutions director of new technologies Kjeld Aabo, Proman Shipping commercial manager Matthias Classen and Methanex Europe director for market development EMEA Ayça Yalçın