Port of Antwerp is investing in methanol-fuelled vessels as part of a drive to systematically replace or retrofit its existing fleet and reduce emissions
The port authority plans to encourage investment in alternatives to heavy fuel oil and marine gasoil, and to operate environmentally friendly vessels.
Its commitment to methanol involves retrofitting three vessels to use this alcohol-based fuel in dual-fuel engines.
Port of Antwerp technical manager Celine Audenaerdt said the authority expects to gain regulatory approval for the first of these retrofit projects before the end of this year.
She explained the port’s vision and strategy to become a pioneer in alternative fuels during Riviera Maritime Media’s Alternative fuels for powering a tug: the selection conundrum webinar on 2 September, which was part of Tug Technology Webinar Week.
Port of Antwerp is the fifth-largest bunkering port worldwide. Therefore, it is in the authority’s interest to facilitate a transition to alternative fuels. It is also a community builder, regulator, landlord and vessel operator, with fleets of tugs and dredgers.
Ms Audenaerdt said its investment in vessel retrofits to methanol is part of the EU-funded Fastwater project. “There will be three vessels retrofitted,” she said. This includes an inland/harbour tug, a pilot boat and coastguard vessel.
“We developed retrofit kits and will make business plans and train crew in this project,” said Ms Audenaerdt. These retrofit kits need to be scalable for other vessel and ship types.
Another aspect is commercialising medium-speed and high-speed methanol engines then demonstrating reduced pollutant and CO2 emissions from these three retrofitted vessels.
Ms Audenaerdt said other key elements are developing rules and regulations, including a methanol fuel standard, then demonstrating the complete supply chain from renewable methanol producers to ship bunkering.
Methanol is not the only option Port of Antwerp is interested in. It is investing in hybrid-electric propulsion patrol vessels being built in the Netherlands.
Plus, it is a partner in the Hydrotug project with CMB.Tech and Anglo Belgian Corp (ABC), to develop a hydrogen-fuelled harbour tug, and it can offer LNG bunkering to shipping sectors.
“We walk the talk for improvements in the CO2 emissions of our own fleet by investing in energy-efficient ships or by switching to alternative fuels,” said Ms Audenaerdt.
“We are investing in hybrid, hydrogen, and methanol as developments become possible in these fuels. We are using lessons from LNG bunkering and overcoming the technology challenges,” she added.
Ms Audenaerdt expects these fuels will be used in other shipping sectors. “We want to be a multi-fuel port offering alternative fuels – we welcome pioneers,” she said.
Port of Antwerp is also open to other fuel options as these become viable. “We are keeping an eye on other alternatives such as ammonia, ethane and formic acid,” she explained.
There are several technical, commercial and legislative hurdles to providing and using alternative fuels. Ms Audenaerdt highlighted the main ones as supply chain, training, non-existent regulatory framework, finance and ’not in my backyard’ public concerns.
“The supply chain is a key hurdle. The challenge is to get alternative fuels where you want them,” she said.
On training, Port of Antwerp has more than 300 people working on its tugs and dredgers. “They need to be trained on fuels and how to operate the technology difference,” she said. At least this challenge is within the tug operator’s own control. Its requirements for a regulatory framework lie elsewhere. But, Ms Audenaerdt thinks there will be some relief for this challenge. “For the methanol tug we aim to get approval in 2020,” she said.
Alternative fuels are for the long-term decarbonisation of the shipping and ports sectors. In the short term, ports and tug operators will need to invest in new vessels with emissions abatement technology as IMO’s Tier III regulations covering diesel engines comes into force from January 2021.
With this in mind, Port of Antwerp contracted Damen Shipyards Group in June to supply two reverse stern drive (RSD) harbour tugs with propulsion compliant to IMO Tier III.
Damen is building two RSD 2513 tugs with 70 tonnes of bollard pull. They have been designed for improved seakeeping and increased safety on board and lower emissions.
Port of Antwerp opted to have the vessels fitted with Damen’s inhouse, certified Marine NOX reduction system, making them IMO Tier III-compliant.
“We are systematically replacing our tugs with modern, more environmentally friendly tugs,” said Ms Audenaerdt.
“Buying the two Damen tugs fits in this framework. The new tugs have more fuel-efficient engines and a more efficient propulsion, which significantly reduces fuel consumption,” she added.
These tugs will ensure Port of Antwerp is ahead in terms of environmental performance in the near term. Its investment in methanol and hydrogen as alternative fuels sets it as a pioneer in decarbonising the maritime industry.
CMB.Tech is developing Hydrotug as its largest hydrogen-fuelled vessel. “Hydrotug will be a 65-tonne bollard pull tug in Antwerp,” said project manager Roy Campe. “It will have two 2-MW medium-speed engines and 400 kg of compressed hydrogen storage.”
As this tug will have dual-fuel engines, it will also have filters to remove particulates and selective catalytic reduction equipment for abatement of NOx. “We are using conventional technology that is affordable; and this is a transition for the next 20 years,” said Mr Campe. “With this project we will get the experience and training. Then we can look at other and bigger projects.”
CMB has already brought Hydroville, a small passenger vessel into operation in Belgium. The company is also building Hydrobingo, a larger passenger shuttle in Japan along with Hydrocat, a hydrogen-fuelled crew transfer vessel for offshore windfarms.
Use this link to view Riviera’s webinar: Alternative fuels for powering a tug: the selection conundrum
More examples of tug propulsion technology and use of alternative fuels will be debated during Riviera’s Smart Tug Operations Virtual Conference on 13 October.