Weighing in the Viability of Methanol As A Future Fuel

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William Stoichevski produces the ‘future marine fuel manifesto‘ for the May 2022 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News. In an article for Maritime Professional he talks about methanol.

Maritime decarbonisation

In just 12 years, the EU has moved from compelling the use of LNG to renouncing it in favor of battery power and then putting LNG partly back on the mantle of clean fuels. In Norway, during that time, Oslo’s industrialists heavily promoted biodiesel for cars before climbing aboard the all-electric bandwagon and forcing generous financing for Teslas.

Despite the social engineering, there is now greater certainty on decarbonizing ship’s engines. Under the IMO sulfur cap, ship owners have strived to comply by choosing lower-sulfur fuels or scrubbers, depending on price, says Christos Chryssakis, DNV business development manager and a decarbonization expert.

Fuels have been available. (Not having them) was one of the concerns before 2020. This has not been the case,” he says. Low-sulfur HFO and MGO were made available by refineries once at odds with shipowners over who’d pay the lower-sulfur tab, producer or end-user.

Now, with a European war underway, fuel oil prices and the price differential between high and low-sulfur is up again. “Scrubbers are very attractive again, but I don’t thing we’ll be seeing more scrubber installations. It’s just that for those who have scrubbers, they have an incentive to keep on using them for as long as possible.” So, scrubbers are attractive today, just not in newbuilds, “because people have a different focus, and that is decarbonization.”

Methanol (CH3OH)

As 2021 ran its course, Class began seeing “increased interest in methanol,” and OEMs began looking at its energy density of 36,700 MJ/m3, a close MGO match

Engine maker MAN is working on a number of engine types, and 2023 should see one that can run on methanol or diesel. Company exec, Thomas Hanssen, says 2021 saw “a massive order uptake of ships not using bunker as fuel”, or at least not as an only fuel. He says dual-fuel has come to stay “for all segments,” especially for powering smaller-bore gen sets and supplying electricity to avoid the dreaded “black ship at 2 a.m.”.

Methanol’s combustion performance “might not be best-in-class”, he says, but it does allow priority to be given the electrical supply in a MAN-made engine. MAN execs note that four-stroke RPMs are “10-times faster” with methanol, so you need more fuel in the combustion chamber — and a larger chamber.

Challenges with Methanol

Chryssakis says methanol has benefits, especially for crews. “From among all of the alternative fuels that we have, it’s the one that’s easiest to handle,” he says, addiFrom among all of the alternative fuels that we have, it’s the one that’s easiest to handlng that “the CAPEX or investment for a vessel is relatively low because you don’t have cryogenic or pressurized tanks”.

Read more here. 

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Source: Maritime Professional 

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