Methanol: The Future Fuel for Shipping

Methanol Gains Popularity as Alternative Fuel for Shipping Industry

There is a shifting tide in the shipping sector as methanol starts to gain recognition as a promising alternative fuel source. An increase in orders for methanol-powered ships is testament to this trend. This paradigm shift has been enabled in part due to regulatory initiatives. Guidelines set forth by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the use of methyl and ethyl alcohol as ship fuels, in conjunction with DNV’s mandatory class rules for methanol-fueled ships, have facilitated the inclusion of methanol into the realm of viable ship fuel options. This robust regulatory framework is paving the way for a greener and more sustainable future for the shipping industry.

Benefits and Challenges of Methanol as Ship Fuel

Methanol, as a ship fuel, comes with its unique set of advantages and challenges. On the plus side, it entails a lower capital expenditure for shipbuilders and operators as it does not require pressurization or expensive cryogenic fuel tanks and systems. The design requirements for methanol-powered ships are simpler, making the ship construction process easier and more cost-effective. The management of the fuel on board the ship is also less demanding. However, safety considerations must not be overlooked. Methanol is a toxic and flammable low-flashpoint fuel that requires specific safety measures. Despite these precautions being less elaborate than those needed for LNG, they are nonetheless crucial for safe operations.

Environmental Impact of Methanol and the Role of Green Methanol

From an environmental perspective, methanol has a two-fold impact. On one hand, conventional methanol usage increases the total lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 10% compared to marine gas oil. On the other hand, the introduction of green methanol, a more sustainable variant, could reduce these emissions. Green methanol, which does not contribute to GHG emissions, is not yet available in large volumes. Numerous companies are willing to bankroll its production, but are waiting for a clear indication of demand before proceeding. This is a potential avenue for a major breakthrough in the journey towards a more sustainable shipping industry.

Growing Demand and Future of Methanol-fuelled Ships

The demand for methanol-fuelled ships is on an upward trajectory, evidenced by the rising orders for newbuilds and retrofits. The first deliveries of these ships are projected for 2024, a sign that ship owners are gearing up for the widespread use of methanol as a fuel in the foreseeable future. Additionally, the industry is mulling over the concept of “green shipping corridors”. These would be designated routes between specific ports where zero-emission fuels and technologies could be trialed and perfected. This innovative approach could spur further adoption of methanol and other alternative fuels.

The Role of DNV in the Transition to Methanol Fuel

DNV plays a pivotal role in this transition to methanol fuel. They offer services that span the entire methanol value chain, from production to delivery. These services provide invaluable decision support for shipowners deliberating the fuel options for their vessels. Furthermore, DNV offers certification services for the production of green methanol. This certification lends much-needed credibility to prospective producers and reassures shipowners that the fuel they are buying is genuinely green. DNV’s unique expertise and comprehensive service offerings are propelling the shipping industry’s transition to this alternative fuel, thereby facilitating a greener and more sustainable future.