According to an article in August 18th’s Bunkerworld, methanol is increasingly being recognized as a clean and competitive alternative to traditional bunker fuel, although there are still hurdles to cross before it can be widely adopted. Growing awareness and pressure to cut emissions are, however, likely to spur its use in the future.
The tendency to look at methanol as a marine fuel is relatively recent and is driven by the recent surge in production capacity, particularly in the US, where supply has burgeoned thanks to cheap gas from the shale plays.
Global methanol production capacity exceeds 120 million metric tons/year, according to industry estimates. International shipping consumes more than 300 million mt/year of bunker fuel, with the North Sea and Baltic Sea Sulfur Emission Control Areas (SECA) accounting for over 20 million mt/year of consumption, according to a report published by the FC Business Intelligence and the Methanol Institute in 2015.
Not all ships within the SECAs can be expected to convert to methanol quickly, mainly because not all engines are suitable for conversion, and the rate of fleet renewal is slow.
Replacing even 5% of the fuel oil used in the Northern European SECA would use 2 million mt/year of methanol and reduce pollution significantly, Dom LaVigne, director of Government & Public Affairs, Asia Pacific and Middle East, at the Methanol Institute, a global trade association for methanol, said this week.
This is an important development due to stricter emissions control in the maritime industry brought about by the enforcement of SECAs in North America, the Caribbean and in the North and Baltic Seas. Countries such as China are also making a concerted effort to curb ship-generated air pollution by limiting the sulfur content in fuels.
A number of companies are already investing in the capability to use methanol as a marine fuel. MI member Methanex’s fully owned subsidiary Waterfront Shipping plans is chartering seven 50,000 dwt vessels built with dual-fuel engines that can run on methanol as part of its plan to replace older vessels and expand its fleet.
Swedish ferry and freight operator Stena Line was also looking to use methanol as a marine fuel, LaVigne said. The company has undertaken a large scale project to convert four main engines on its cruise ferry Stena Germanica to run on methanol and diesel.
Several others including Lloyd’s Register, Sweden-based ScandiNAOS AB and Singapore-based MI member Billion Miles were working towards energy-efficient sustainable shipping, LaVigne said.
Supported by the Maritime Innovation & Technology fund created by the Maritime Port Authority of Singapore, Billion Miles is pioneering a methanol fuel blend system for marine engines.
In the future, it is expected that methanol will increasingly gain acceptance as technology advances and more vessels are converted to run on methanol. The full article can be viewed by those with a Bunkerworld subscription HERE.