Drawing on the experience of vessel operators that have used methanol as a fuel, class society Lloyd’s Register and the Methanol Institute have developed a new technical reference document to support best practices for its safe use and handling
Interest in methanol as a marine fuel is growing as shipowners and operators assess future fuel options in support of IMO’s 2030 and 2050 greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction ambitions.
The technical guidance will help shipowners, ports and bunker suppliers better understand processes and procedures for the safe use of methanol as a marine fuel.
The new guidance outlines the procedures required for safely bunkering methanol and incorporates dedicated checklists to assist shipowners/operators, ports, bunker suppliers and other stakeholders with safe storage and handling.
Methanol is already in use as a marine fuel on several vessel types. Compared with traditional heavy fuel oil options, methanol is sulphur-free and produces lower greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuel.
As a low-flashpoint fuel and a contact-hazardous product, the partners identified the need for a technical reference that draws on the experience of industry players using methanol successfully on their vessels to offer clear and concise best practice for bunkering. Safely handled as a chemical commodity for decades, methanol’s more recent use as fuel calls for a detailed understanding of options for shoreside and barge delivery as well as onboard tank configuration.
Methanol Institute chief operating officer Chris Chatterton said “Methanol is increasingly seen as one of the candidate fuels to be used in the decarbonisation of shipping.” Mr Chatterton pointed out that methanol is already in use as marine fuel on tankers, bulkers, ferries and harbour craft. “Its lower pollution and greenhouse gas emissions profile offers owners the opportunity to meet IMO 2020 regulations and move towards IMO 2030 compliance, while also gaining valuable knowledge towards IMO 2050 ambitions.”
Lloyd’s Register regional advisory services manager Douglas Raitt commented “The maritime industry is sizing up many decarbonisation options in its journey from low carbon to net zero. Methanol is among these and it offers a pathway that will enable owners to progressively lower their emissions’ profile while using conventional engine systems and technology to achieve net zero.”
Currently methanol is usually produced by the steam reforming of natural gas, but as the simplest of the alcohols, it can also be made from various forms of biomass or waste materials, or even from the atmosphere itself, using CO2 from non-fossil fuel power sources alongside renewable hydrogen, thereby adding to its environmental pedigree.
One of the major attractions of methanol as a fuel type is that it has a single molecular structure, irrespective of production route – unlike, for example natural gas or petroleum-derived liquid distillate and residual fuels that each represent mixtures of a range of different hydrocarbon types – hence engines can be more tightly tuned since ‘fuel flexibility’ is required only for methanol and a pilot fuel such as MGO.
The International Organisation for Standardisation is in the process of developing a methanol marine fuel grade specification and the regulatory process is moving towards final adoption of new rules for inclusion of low-flashpoint fuels into IMO’s IGF Code.
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