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VPS shares its experience with methanol as a bunker fuel

Steve Bee, VPS Group Commercial Director, provides an insight on the firm’s experience of testing methanol as a marine fuel including the very first methanol bunker quantity survey.

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Steve Bee, Group Commercial Director of marine fuels testing company VPS, provides an insight on the firm’s experience of testing methanol as a marine fuel including the very first methanol bunker quantity survey:

Introduction

As the shipping industry looks to decarbonise and become net zero by 2050, ship owners and operators are looking at alternative fuels with a lower carbon footprint in order to reduce overall emissions from their fleet. In Europe this is linked to the EU ETS scheme coming in 2024 and also the FuelEU Maritime[1] legislation coming in 2025. As part of the ever-changing marine fuel mix, methanol is now being seriously considered as a low-carbon fuel to assistshipping in achieving its decarbonisation targets.

Methanol (CH3OH) is a liquid chemical used in thousands of everyday products, including plastics, paints, cosmetics and fuels. Liquid methanol is made from synthesis gas, a mix of hydrogen, carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide. These components can be sourced from a wide range of feedstocks, using different technologies.

Renewable methanol is an ultra-low carbon chemical produced from sustainable biomass,often called bio-methanol, or from carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced from renewable electricity.

Renewable methanol can be made from numerous and plentiful sources which are globally available. The carbon molecules required to make synthesis gas for methanol production can be obtained from CO2 via industrial exhaust streams, or even captured from the air. Synthesisgas also can be produced from the gasification of any carbon source, such as municipal solid waste or forestry residues. Biogas, obtained through fermentation, from landfills, wastewater treatment, plants or animal wastes can also be used as a feedstock for methanol production.Additionally, renewable energy can power the electrolysis process to generate clean hydrogen for the production of renewable methanol.

Methanol is the world’s most commonly shipped chemical commodity and more than 95 billion litres are manufactured every year. It has been stored, transported and handled safely for over100 years. Since it remains liquid at ambient temperature and pressure, the infrastructure required to deploy it as a fuel, is largely in place: combustion engines, fuel cells and powerblocks can easily be adapted to use methanol.

Methanol as a Marine Fuel

The attraction of methanol to shipping, is that renewable methanol can significantly reduce greenhouse emissions to atmosphere including, reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) by up to 95%and nitrogen oxide (NOx) by up to 80%, and eliminating sulphur oxide (SOx) and particulate matter (PM) emissions.

However, there are numerous considerations regarding the use of methanol as a marine fuel.Firstly, methanol exhibits good burn characteristics, but will require a pilot fuel for ignition, eg a gas oil, or a biofuel. Further positives are, it is a liquid at atmospheric pressure, its bio-degradable and can run well in existing engine technologies.

However, methanol has a Flash Point of only 12ºC, which immediately raises questions relating to the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) requirements. SOLAS states no marine fuel with a flashpoint less than 60ºC should be onboard a vessel. Methanol has a low energy content,approximately 40%-50% of the more traditional fossil fuels used within the maritime sector.Methanol is highly reactive and therefore materials with which methanol may contact, should be inert, eg stainless steel.

In order to achieve the Tier III NOx requirements, pure water must be added to methanol prior to burning. This allows for approximately 30% less NOx emissions compared to fossil fuels.

VPS Completes the First Methanol Bunker Quantity Survey, Sampling and Testing

In July 2023 VPS were requested by Maersk to undertake the very first methanol bunker quantity survey (BQS). This took place in Singapore for Maersk’s first methanol-powered container ship, the Laura Maersk.

Prior to this first methanol delivery, various levels of pre-delivery work were required including,the delivery barge tank-cleaning operation and a part loading of methanol to the barge, to ensure no cross-contamination could take place, during the actual delivery. VPS, as part of theBQS operation, also undertook the required closed-sampling procedure, to safely harvest representative samples of the methanol delivered to the vessel, which were then transferred toa VPS Laboratory for quality testing.

In the 12 months leading up to this BQS, VPS invested heavily into new laboratory equipment and R&D in order to provide a comprehensive testing and advisory service in relation to methanol as a marine fuel.

In order to safely transport methanol samples to the VPS laboratory, the transfer via aeroplane,had to comply with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), rules for the transportation of dangerous goods. It is worth noting when considering using methanol as a marine fuel, it is the person sending methanol samples for testing, who must be trained and accredited to the IATA standards, ie the vessel crew, or vessel agent.

The testing of the samples from the Laura Maersk bunkering, was conducted to theInternational Methanol Producers and Consumers Association (IMPCA) test slate. The key test considerations here were, the purity of the methanol, the presence of ethanol, water content,the presence of acetone, chlorides, the acidity of the fuel, sulphur content and numerous other impurities, which could be detected.

Following the Singapore bunkering the Laura Maersk set sail for Port Said, Egypt, where VPSrepeated the BQS, Sampling and Testing of the methanol delivered to the vessel. The final bunkering stop took place in Rotterdam, where VPS once again completed the BQS operation,sampling and testing.

The VPS surveying and testing of these three methanol bunker stems, showed the fuel delivered matched the Bunker Delivery Note (BDN) and the Certificate of Quality (CoQ).

VPS and Methanol Bunker Fuel

VPS have proven that safe, accurate and reliable, quantity surveys and sampling of methanol can be undertaken. Plus, following significant investment in state-of-the-art laboratory equipment, plus analyst and advisory training, VPS can also provide accurate analytical testing of methanol samples to determine the quality of the fuel and provide the necessary and valuable marine engineering advice, to support ship owners and operators when they look to use methanol as their low-carbon marine fuel of choice.

VPS are currently working with numerous shipping companies, suppliers and engine manufacturers on testing their methanol samples and sharing our experience, expertise and innovative approach in helping them gain a greater understanding of this low-carbon fuel.

With more than 160 methanol-powered vessels currently on order, it is inevitable that methanol use will significantly increase within the maritime sector and VPS have proven high-levelperformance to support the industry in this aspect of it’s decarbonisation journey.

Related: Dr. Nicholas Clague shares VPS’ experience with alternative bunker fuels

Photo credit: VPS
Published: 16 October, 2023

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Alternative Fuels

MPA to set up facility for maritime workforce to train in handling new bunker fuels

Facility will be anchored by new dual-fuel marine engine simulator for training on safe handling, bunkering and management of incidents involving the use of alternative marine fuels such as methanol.

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MPA to set up facility for maritime workforce to train in handling new bunker fuels

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) on Monday (15 April) said it will establish an industry-supported facility to address the current competencies gap by training the global maritime workforce in handling and operating vessels using clean marine fuels. 

MPA said there is a need for more maritime personnel and seafarers to be trained and equipped to operate these ships safely and efficiently as the number of ships operating on zero or near-zero emission fuels grows. 

With hundreds of crew changes conducted daily here, Singapore’s Maritime Energy Training Facility (METF) is well placed to support the training of international seafarers. Ship owners and operators can expect time and training cost savings by tapping on METF’s training facilities. 

Around 10,000 seafarers and other maritime personnel are expected to be trained at METF from now to the 2030s, as the facilities are progressively developed by 2026.

The Letter of Intent to establish METF was signed by MPA and 22 partners comprising global marine engine manufacturers, international organisations, classification societies, trade associations, unions, and institutes of higher learning, at the SMW 2024 opening ceremony. 

The setting up of METF follows from recommendations put forth by the Tripartite Advisory Panel, formed in early 2023 by SMF and supported by MPA, to identify emerging and future skills and competencies to build for the maritime workforce.

METF will be established as a decentralised network of training facilities in Singapore. It will be anchored by a new dual-fuel marine engine simulator for training on the safe handling, bunkering and management of incidents involving the use of alternative fuels, such as methanol and ammonia. 

Other training facilities supporting METF include the integrated engine room and bridge simulator by the Singapore Maritime Academy (SMA) at Singapore Polytechnic (SP), as well as the bridge and engine simulator at Wavelink Maritime Institute (WMI)2 for crew resource management training. 

For emergency response training, METF is supported by gas and fire safety training facilities at Poly Marina operated by the SMA, as well as AR-enabled scenario- based training developed by SP’s Centre of Excellence in Maritime Safety.

METF will also tap various partners’ assets and training technologies to upskill the global maritime workforce, including seafarers, on the operations, bunkering and management of zero or near-zero emission-powered vessels. New training courses and curriculum will be developed by METF’s partners, and progressively rolled out from this year.

MPA also aims to support and contribute to the work of the Maritime Just Transition Task Force (MJTTF) as one of the institutions rolling out the Baseline Training Framework for Seafarers in Decarbonization – which is under development – through METF. 

This will directly contribute to the joint International Maritime Organization (IMO)–MJTTF work to develop training provisions for seafarers in support of decarbonisation of shipping, and complements the IMO's ongoing comprehensive review of the International Convention and Code on Standards of

Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW). Singapore is currently chairing the IMO Working Group on the comprehensive review of the STCW Convention and Code, established in 2023 under the Sub-Committee on Human Element, Training and Watchkeeping.

As part of the METF curriculum, SMA has launched one of the Asia Pacific’s first training courses focused on handling methanol as fuel for ships. The training course, accredited by MPA, covers operational and safety protocols during methanol fuelling developed by MPA following the first ship-to-containership methanol bunkering operation conducted in Singapore in July 2023. 

The course also includes a methanol firefighting practical component covering both shipboard and terminal fires. SMA currently offers two sessions of the Basic and Advanced courses every month, with plans to scale up based on the industry’s demands. The course will be open to all maritime personnel and seafarers starting in April 2024.

With strong demand signalled by the industry for such common training facilities, METF is expected to catalyse investments by the industry to develop other training facilities and solutions in Singapore to tap into this growth area. MAN Energy Solutions, one of the leading global engine makers of alternative-fuel engines, recently opened a new mixed-purpose facility. 

The facility includes a new MAN PrimeServ5 training academy for customers and employees on the safe operation, maintenance, and troubleshooting of all MAN Energy Solutions equipment. METF is also expected to benefit corporate training academies set up by shipping companies, such as those from Eastern Pacific Shipping, to train their global seafaring crew and shore-based personnel.

The MPA – SMF Joint Office for Talent and Skills (Joint Office) was established in March 2024 to coordinate and drive the tripartite efforts by the government, industry, and unions to upskill the Maritime Singapore workforce across shore-based and seafaring jobs and to ensure Singapore continues to have access to a diversity of maritime talents and experts.

To provide workers with greater flexibility in the acquisition of new skills, the Joint Office will work with IHLs and industry to review and progressively convert relevant short-term courses, or on-the-job training into accredited competency-based micro-credentials. These will focus on emerging skills such as maritime cybersecurity, digitalisation, and sustainability. 

The micro-credentials could potentially be stacked towards formal or industry-recognised qualifications and to fill the gap in quality and flexible upskilling or reskilling opportunities for working adults while they remain in full employment. The Joint Office plans to expand the micro-credential pathway, allowing recognition of more courses and workplace learning as micro-credentials over time.

Related: Singapore bunkering sector enters milestone with first methanol marine refuelling op

 

Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 15 April 2024

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Alternative Fuels

Singapore-Rotterdam Green and Digital Shipping Corridor partners to implement first-mover pilot projects

Partners will carry out projects and testing out commercial structures to accelerate uptake of zero and near-zero emission bunker fuels, such as synthetic and bio-variants of methanol and ammonia.

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Singapore-Rotterdam Green and Digital Shipping Corridor partners to implement first-mover pilot projects

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) and Port of Rotterdam Authority (PoR) on Monday (15 April) said the Singapore-Rotterdam Green and Digital Shipping Corridor (GDSC) has commenced the implementation phase and aims to enhance operational efficiencies and lower barriers for first movers to ensure availability, acceptability and affordability of alternative marine fuels. 

The corridor will accelerate transformation efforts for maritime decarbonisation and digitalisation.

The GDSC partners will convene for the inaugural GDSC Symposium as part of Singapore Maritime Week 2024. The partners include MPA, PoR, PSA International, A.P. Moller Maersk, CMA CGM, Hapag-Lloyd, MSC, Ocean Network Express, BP, Shell and Methanol Institute. 

The Singapore-Rotterdam GDSC was established by MPA and PoR in August 2022 to accelerate transformation efforts for maritime decarbonisation and digitalisation.

To-date, the GDSC initiative has brought together 26 global value-chain partners across shipping lines, fuel suppliers, port authorities and operator, industry coalitions, banks, leading institutes of higher learning and knowledge partners.

Hapag-Lloyd, the world’s fifth largest liner shipping company operating more than 260 ocean going vessels, is the latest addition to the corridor. Hapag-Lloyd joins four other leading global container shipping lines which have committed to deploying large container vessels running on zero-and near-zero emission fuels along the high-volume Asia-Europe trade lane.

Other new corridor partners include A*STAR Centre for Maritime Digitalisation (A*STAR’s C4MD), led by A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (A*STAR IHPC). A*STAR’s C4MD aims to develop advanced computational modelling, simulation and artificial intelligence solutions for a safe, efficient and sustainable maritime ecosystem. 

Encouraging the uptake of zero and near-zero emission fuels

The GDSC partners will be implementing several first-mover pilot projects and testing out commercial structures to accelerate the uptake of zero and near-zero emission fuels, such as synthetic and bio-variants of methanol, ammonia, methane, and hydrogen. This implementation follows earlier modelling studies undertaken by the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller Centre for Zero Carbon-Shipping and the Centre for Maritime Studies of the National University of Singapore to explore multiple alternative fuels pathways and their viability as sustainable marine fuel.

Bio-methane Working Group

The bio-methane working group, led by SEA-LNG has examined relevant regulations and certification standards such as the ISCC EU certification to support the adoption of bio-methane for marine bunkering at a commercial scale. The GDSC partners plan to carry out Bio-LNG bunkering pilots over 2024 and 2025. These pilots would be based on mass balancing chain of custody principle that involves physical blending of certified bio-methane with non-certified conventional LNG across shared transport, storage and distribution infrastructure such as pipelines.

Methanol Working Group

Following the conduct of the Port of Rotterdam’s green methanol terminal bunkering operation on the world’s first methanol-fuelled container ship, and the world’s first ship-to-containership methanol bunkering at the Port of Singapore, the methanol working group, led by PoR, has worked on a clear starting point for fuel standards and knowledge exchange on chain of custody principles. The Working Group will also be addressing common challenges such as acceptability, availability, and affordability to carry out commercial methanol bunkering at both Ports of Singapore and Rotterdam.

Ammonia Working Group

The ammonia working group, jointly led by MPA, the Nanyang Technological University Maritime Energy and Sustainable Development Centre of Excellence, and the A*STAR’s C4MD will be developing a framework to assess the lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) intensity of green ammonia for bunkering, and a decision-making tool for value-chain partners to optimise their green ammonia supply chain network. This study, to be completed by 2025, will support ongoing efforts by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to develop the Life Cycle GHG Assessment (LCA) framework and guidelines for alternative marine fuels.

Hydrogen Working Group

With Shell’s contribution, the hydrogen working group has been assessing the technical and economic feasibility of hydrogen as a marine fuel for ocean-going container vessels. Going beyond desktop-based studies, the working group aims to develop novel ship designs allowing the GDSC partners to understand the cost differential and how to practically overcome the challenges, whilst maximising the opportunities that hydrogen as a sustainable marine fuel offers.

Commercial Structures Working Group to reduce cost barriers to zero and near-zero emissions fuels

To support these fuel-based initiatives and drive commercial scalability, a working group led by PoR and the Global Maritime Forum (GMF), supported by the GDSC partners, is developing and testing commercial structures to reduce the cost barriers of using zero and near-zero emission fuels. The working group is currently exploring various demand and supply aggregation mechanisms and public and private financial levers that have the potential to collectively bring down the green premium and help bridge the cost gap.

Adoption of digital solutions for efficient and secure ship-shore data exchange and GHG emissions monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV)

On the digital front, Singapore and Rotterdam have successfully trialled the exchange of port-to-port data and are now able to exchange vessel arrival and departure times to facilitate port planning and for ships to optimise their port call voyage between Singapore and Rotterdam. Following this successful trial, Singapore and Rotterdam have jointly issued a call-for-proposal (CFP) for standards-based solutions that enable efficient and secure data exchange between ship and shore.

Related: MPA and Port of Rotterdam sign MoU to form world’s longest Green and Digital Corridor
Related: Partners in Rotterdam-Singapore Green & Digital Shipping Corridor support emission reductions
Related: New progress report highlights Rotterdam-Singapore Green & Digital Shipping Corridor
Related: MPA and Port of Rotterdam sign MoU to form world’s longest Green and Digital Corridor

 

Photo credit: Scott Graham on Unsplash
Published: 15 April 2024

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Bunker Fuel

Singapore: Bunker fuel sales increase by 6.4% on year in March 2024

4.45 million mt of various marine fuel grades were delivered at the world’s largest bunkering port in February, up from 4.18 million mt recorded during March 2023, according to MPA data.

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Singapore: Bunker fuel sales increase by 6.4% on year in March 2024

Sales of bunker fuel at Singapore port increased by 6.4% on year during March 2024, according to Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) data.

In total, 4.45 million metric tonnes (mt) (exact 4,448,243 mt) of various marine fuel grades were delivered at the world’s largest bunkering port in February, up from 4.18 million mt (4,178,950 mt) recorded during March 2023.

Deliveries of marine fuel oil, low sulphur fuel oil, ultra low sulphur fuel oil, marine gas oil and marine diesel oil in March (against on year) recorded respectively 1.61 million mt (+40.4% from 1.27 million mt), 2.42 million mt (+9.91% from 2.55 million mt), zero (from zero), 5,100 mt (+132% from 14,700 mt) and zero (from zero).

Singapore: Bunker fuel sales increase by 6.4% on year in March 2024

Bio-blended variants of marine fuel oil, low sulphur fuel oil, ultra low sulphur fuel oil, marine gas oil and marine diesel oil in February (against on year) recorded respectively zero (from zero), 66,000 mt (-46.9% from 28,400 mt), zero (from zero), zero (from zero) and zero (from zero).

LNG and methanol sales were posted respectively at 38,600 mt (from 3,700) and zero (from zero).

Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales up by 18.8% on year in February 2024
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales up by 12.1% on year in January 2024

A complete series of articles on Singapore bunker volumes by Manifold Times in 2023 can be found below:

Related: Singapore achieves milestone with record year for bunker sales in 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales fell 2.5% on year in November 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales increase by 3.5% on year in October 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales increase by 7.7% on year in September 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales continue upward trend, rose by 3.4% on year in August 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales continue upward trend, rose by 9.7% on year in July 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales continue to increase by 4.7% on year in June 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales increase by 11.8% on year in May 2023
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales continue upward trend, rose by 13.4% on year in April
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales continue upward trend, rose by 10.8% on year in March
Related: Singapore: Bunker fuel sales continue upward trend, up 8.3% on year in February
Related: Singapore’s bunker sales kickstarts well with 8.6% increase on year in January 

Photo credit: Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 15 March 2024

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