METHANOL – Full ahead on the voyage to zero.


The bunker industry must invest in the shift to low and zero-carbon fuels as we look ahead to the next IMO regulatory milestone. SEA COMMERCE (AMERICA) discussed why METHANOL is the ideal fuel for ships at an IMarEST UAE branch hybrid seminar & webinar. 100 in person and 168 online participants had the opportunity to interact with top industry experts from leading organizations including Methanex, Methanol Institute, Marinvest, DagMar Navigation, Proman, MAN and Anglo Belgium Corp, in an event which offered a unique opportunity to connect and network with fellow professionals.

From the stage of the hotel Marriott Al Jadaf, NIKEEL IDNANI (Secretary, IMarEST UAE branch) conceded that the shipping industry has traditionally been familiar with a limited range of fuels. Now, ship owners are on the threshold of witnessing the bunker market develop in complexity with new low- or zero-carbon solutions come into play to kick start the rapid scaling of carbon neutral fuels needed enroute to green shipping. He introduced the 2 speakers physically present & 6 others who joined the webinar online.

AYCA YALCIN (MBA, Solvay Brussels School Economics & Management), Director Market Development EMEA, Methanex (the world’s largest producer and supplier of methanol) in her presentation - Methanol A Clean, Cost-Effective Marine Fuel Solution brought to light the fact that there are 35 methanol fueled vessels (contracted and in service) including 19 in Waterfront Shipping’s (a subsidiary of Methanex Corporation) fleet. In general, when compared with HFO, emission reductions amount to over 99% for SOx, 80% for NOx and 95% for PM. Notwithstanding a modest incremental cost to build/convert a vessel, a 2-3 years payback on Methanol engines makes it a commercially viable consideration, argued this Vice Chairman of Methanol Institute's Market Development Committee. Additionally, Methanol is globally available through an already existing infrastructure & has similar bunkering guidelines as conventional marine fuels, mentioned Ayça.

CHRIS CHATTERTON (COO, Methanol Institute, Singapore) used a SWOT analysis as his strategic planning argument in favor of Methanol as a future proof fuel. In essence, he stated that Methanol is a fully IMO 2020 compliant fuel that is readily available, competitive in Capex & Opex with LSFO and LNG, with a range of future proof pathways. Mr Chatterton highlighted the inherent challenges of alternative fuels, such as Energy density, limited raw materials, delays in GHG regulations, low LSFO prices, and increased onboard storage space requirements. Mr Chatterton further stated that MI supports a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) basis focused on “well to wake” emissions versus the “tank to wake” basis as is the current IMO methodology.

Meanwhile, joining online from Wollerau, Switzerland, PETER SCHILD (Director Marine Fuel, Proman) discussed the key themes and challenges across the shipping sector, including navigating the emission reduction targets and regulations set by the IMO and other stakeholders, and selecting alternative fuels which can be used until 2050. Peter highlighted Proman’s joint venture with Stena Bulk, first announced in 2019, to deliver methanol-ready 49900 dwt IMO II tankers. Since, Proman and Stena’s commitment has grown, with 6 vessels on order in total, 3 of which will be Proman-owned – underlining the momentum behind methanol as one of the most viable low-emission future fuels. Addressing the question of the supply of renewable methanol to power the growing number of methanol-ready vessels, Peter noted Proman’s investment in bio- and low-carbon methanol projects globally.

FREDRIK STUBNER (Director Technical, Marinvest, Sweden) in his presentation Methanol Dual Fuel technology – from Concept/Design to fruition, summarized the benefits of Methanol as Fuel viz. easy to transport and widely available in over 90 ports, easy to store onboard with no cryogenics involved, proven fuel used in transportation since 1970, minor modification needed compared to other alternative fuels, TIER III compliant without use of EGR and SCR, varied feedstock including biomass and recycled CO2 for future compliance. Fredrik who is responsible for Marinvest´s ships in operation as well as the new building program, introduced the case of M.T MARI JONE and M.T MARI BOYLE which were delivered in 2016 to Marinvest and are part of a series of the world’s first ocean-going dual-fuel methanol carriers. These ships benefit from a 2% lower SFOC monitored over 40000 running hours and protected with appropriate safety features. Tier III NOx compliance is achieved using water blending. Additional bunker tanks allowing for dual fuel flexibility require a volume. Fredrik admitted, as with all alternative dual-fuel vessels, this impacts the cargo capacity which must be factored in the ship design. STCW mandatory training requirements for officers and crew on Methanol-powered ships are subject to the IGF CODE, which came into force in January 2017. Marinvest had a stringent selection of crew who shared the common vision of a green emission profile and are willing to step out of their comfort zone. When illustrating a cost comparison, for a new 49000 dwt Product Tanker with a two-stroke, 50 Bore engine is approx $4m more than a conventional ship, while a retrofit would cost approx. $9m since a parent engine is needed. Approximately 5% additional cost was incurred by Marinvest for the training and maintenance of dual-fuel components. Fredrik who led the project for the first-ever MR Tanker built to use Methanol as a fuel revealed previously unknown technical issues that nobody has experienced which had to be solved for the first time. Ship to shore communication was extremely important in handling such difficulties.

DAGFINN LUNDE (Partner Dagmar Navigation Greece), in his astute 3-slide presentation, shared exclusive analysis and his insights on - regulations and policies, access to finance and cargo owners/consumer expectations as the drivers for decarbonization. He alerted the delegates to focus on the well-to-wake, realistic numbers to determine the most suited decarbonization path. Dagfinn who serves on the board of Maxi Shipping and was Chairman of Executive Ship Management, captured the attention of those present when he exposed that there will be a lot more ship conversions to cleaner fuels rather than new ship replacements and the former should be prioritized in an industry with constantly evolving market conditions. If a project is demonstrated as being ‘greener’, there would be cheaper funding available. However, there are approx. 15 different bodies who certify the green credentials, yet the class societies which are best suited for such certification, are not amongst the evaluators, which surprised the attendees.

Capt. SALEEM ALAVI (President, Sea Commerce America), took to the stage throwing his weight behind Methanol debunking and demystifying what is presented in the media as selective information regarding Methanol. This misinformation of facts or incomplete and selective information is continuously hammered to make it appear the norm. This 51-year veteran of the maritime industry who was Director of the UAE Flag and Maritime Advisor at Federal Transport Authority of UAE brought about awareness by identifying economic, environmental & technical factors that shipowners need to consider when deciding on fuel technology selection. He carried out a comprehensive analysis on the comparison of GHG emissions (g CO2 eq/MJ fuel) of MDO, LNG, Methanol & Ethanol from well to tank (i.e. production) and tank to wake (onboard consumption). This Texan who was also Senior Vice President with DVB Bank, Rotterdam, provided robust justification behind Methanol while highlighting the life cycle emissions of pollutants from Methanol & LNG as compared to HFO which drove his point home. Saleem highlighted that at atmospheric pressure and ambient temperature, there was no pressure build-up, no BOG with this liquid fuel system. Methanol (the liquid fuel) when compared with competing alternative cryogenic fuels (LNG, Hydrogen, and Ammonia) there is space-saving with common mild steel using Zinc coatings in existing double bottom tanks. While cofferdams are required, but only adjacent to the side shell below the waterline. The acceptable energy density of Methanol coupled with its environmentally friendly properties provides a compelling argument for its sustainability. Captain Alavi who was a ship-owner and operator, elaborated on the impact of oil spills on marine life, when he recalled the cases of the M.T Erika (19000 tons) & M.T Tanio (13500 tons) which affected the environment, destroyed local fishing and tourist industries resulting in a total damage amount of $914m as the M.T Erika sank. This compared to a simulation of the release of 10000 tons of Methanol, which rapidly diluted as it is miscible in water, biodegradable, and non-toxic to aquatic organisms. On LC50 basis it will require a spill of 15400mg/L of methanol vs 65mg/L of diesel for specified population of marine life being killed, in simple words methanol is 240 times less harmful to marine life then diesel in case of a spill. He was certainly not alone considering concurring feedback received from the audience to the poll questions.  

KJELD AABO (Director New Technology, MAN Energy System Denmark) aroused the interests of the marine engineers in the audience when he delved into developments of Methanol-fueled MAN B&W LGIM engines. MAN B&W engines have successfully clocked 100000 running hours with Methanol. HHI has ordered 8 × MAN B&W 8G95ME-LGIM (Liquid Gas Injection Methanol) engines for 8 × 16,000-teu container ships for A.P. Møller – Maersk, with the first vessel due to enter service in Q1, 2024. Inspired by an additional new-build cost of just 10% for MeOH, compared to 22% for LNG dual-fuel, in a joint development project - HMD, Methanol Inst, DNV, and MAN created a standard design for a 54000 cbm Methanol powered product tanker. Kjeld, who joined MAN B&W Diesel in 1983 after education in mechanical engineering and a diploma in Sales, explained how NOx Tier III compliance can be achieved by emulsifying water in Methanol. His discussions gave an excellent and realistic overview of what MAN terms – the future in the making.

Capt. VINCENT PIROT (Regional Representative, Anglo Belgium Corporation) provided an OEM’s perspective on the rationale for Methanol as a fuel. Established in 1912, ABC is the oldest privately owned medium speed engine manufacturer in Europe, based in Ghent, Belgium. From the various range of fuels, ABC selected Hydrogen & Methanol as their energy vector. The selection was based on the requirement to be sustainable, after anticipating the needs of clients. ABC followed the normal evolution of any technological company to progress and re-invent themselves. ABC dual fuel engines have practically similar configurations as a regular diesel engine, with minor adjustments to run in the dual fuel mode with the main fuel = methanol/hydrogen (90%) and pilot fuel = diesel (10%) or in the diesel mode with main fuel = diesel (100%). ABC also have full hydrogen engines and gensets available.

In addition to the insights offered by speakers from the world's largest and 2nd largest methanol producer, largest owner of methanol powered vessels, trade association for the methanol industry, ship owner and manager, consultancy in shipping investments, engine manufacturers, maritime and oil & gas consultant, the event gave a voice to the attendees who have an essential part to play in shipping’s “journey to zero”. Nikeel concluded with, “While it is well understood there is no silver bullet for shipping’s decarbonization challenge, it is evident that developing commercially viable fuels is what is needed in the race to meet future energy demands. The onus though, will fall upon ship owners and operators to comply with regulations. Considering perspectives from the multi-faceted panel, some of whom are doyens of the shipping industry, there appears to be reasons to be optimistic about the widespread use of Methanol as a low-carbon marine fuel”.

The consensus indicated that the IMarEST-Sea Commerce hybrid seminar/webinar was a first-class affair, both in thought-provoking content and savvy delivery.