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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:


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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Methanol Institute: Breakthroughs and Strategic Moves in Sustainable Marine Fuels (Week 23, 3-9 June 2024)

This week, the maritime industry made pivotal advancements in methanol fuel technology, forged strategic partnerships, and achieved key regulatory milestones, highlighting a concerted effort toward greener marine operations.





Methanol Institute logo

The Methanol Institute, provides an exclusive weekly commentary on developments related to the adoption of methanol as a bunker fuel, including significant related events recorded during the week, for the readers of bunkering publication Manifold Times:

More heavy hitters are getting behind the supply of methanol to marine customers as the demand for newbuildings continues to strengthen.

The ramp-up in biofuels provided by energy major ExxonMobil are expected to support the industry’s decarbonization process as owners place further orders, vessels hit the water and new bunkering operations are planned.

Methanol marine fuel related developments for Week 23 of 2024:

ExxonMobil Expands Marine Biofuels Offering for Shipping Industry
Date: June 4th, 2024

Key Points: ExxonMobil is expanding its marine biofuels offering, actively engaging with multiple customers, including Hapag Lloyd and Wallenius Wilhelmsen. Recent deliveries from its Fawley refinery to several UK ports have demonstrated successful biofuel use without engine modifications. Biofuels are expected to play a significant role in the first phase of shipping's decarbonization, with a future shift towards methanol, ammonia, and hydrogen. ExxonMobil is exploring technologies and pathways to meet the industry's low-emission fuel needs.

DNV: Growing Demand for Methanol-Fueled Vessels Evident in May Newbuild Orders
Date: June 4th, 2024

Key Points: DNV's recent data shows a significant increase in orders for methanol-fueled vessels, with 23 out of 33 new orders in May being methanol-powered. This trend highlights the maritime industry’s growing appetite for methanol as a viable alternative fuel, driven by its lower emissions and alignment with decarbonization goals. Methanol's role is increasingly pivotal as the shipping sector seeks sustainable and compliant fuel options to meet future environmental regulations.

NKT Orders Methanol-Powered Cable-Laying Vessel
Date: June 5th, 2024

Key Points: NKT has ordered a 176-meter dual-fuel cable-laying vessel, the NKT Eleonora, capable of running on methanol, HVO, and MDO. Scheduled for operation in 2027, this vessel reflects NKT's commitment to sustainability and enhancing installation capacity. The decision to build a methanol-fueled vessel aligns with NKT’s strategic goal of providing greener power cable solutions, supporting the industry's shift towards environmentally friendly fuels.

Hagland Shipping Orders Methanol-Convertible Bulk Carriers
Date: June 5th, 2024

Key Points: Hagland Shipping has ordered four 5,000 DWT dry bulk carriers from Dutch shipyard Royal Bodewes. These vessels are designed to be easily converted to methanol propulsion in the future, reducing CO2 emissions by 40-50% and NOx emissions by 90-95% compared to the oldest ships in their fleet. The first ship is expected to be delivered by the end of 2025, enhancing Hagland's commitment to sustainability and emission reduction in Northern Europe and the Baltic region.

Headway Technology Group Opens New Office in Greece
Date: June 6th, 2024

Key Points: Headway Technology Group (Qingdao) Co., Ltd. has inaugurated a new office in Greece, coinciding with the first day of the Posidonia 2024 exhibition. This expansion aims to strengthen Headway's presence in the European low-carbon shipping sector, providing enhanced technical support and services. The new office will showcase Headway's methanol fuel supply systems and other green technologies, reinforcing their commitment to sustainable maritime solutions and supporting the global shift towards low-emission shipping practices.

Vopak Partners to Establish Green Methanol Bu Methanol Bunkering in China
Date: June 6th, 2024

Key Points: Vopak has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the vice mayor of Tianjin to develop a green methanol bunkering operation in Northern China's Tianjin port. This initiative aims to repurpose existing infrastructure for new energy projects, positioning Tianjin as a crucial logistics hub for green methanol development. The partnership with Tianjin Port Group underscores Vopak's commitment to supporting sustainable maritime fuels and contributing to the global energy transition.

New Methanol-Ready Fallpipe Vessel Named "Yellowstone"
Date: June 7th, 2024

Key Points: DEME Group's new fallpipe vessel, the 37,000 DWT "Yellowstone," has been officially named in a ceremony held in Zeebrugge, Belgium. The vessel, designed for future conversion to methanol dual-fuel propulsion, features a hybrid power plant with a 1 MWh Li-ion battery. The naming ceremony, attended by Her Royal Highness Princess Astrid, underscores DEME's commitment to innovation and sustainability in marine operations.


Photo credit: The Methanol Institute
Published: 14 June 2024

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Green Marine Fuels Trading, Vopak team up on green methanol port storage facilities

Green Marine Fuels revealed a strategic collaboration with Vopak to secure necessary port storage to accommodate green methanol supply in Shanghai, Tianjin and later in Singapore.





Green Marine Fuels Trading, Vopak team up on green methanol port storage facilities

Green Marine Fuels Trading on Tuesday (11 June) announced a strategic collaboration with Royal Vopak Terminals in the key ports of Shanghai Caojing and Tianjin Lingang, China. 

The firm said the milestone agreement marked the next phase of methanol supply chain infrastructure expansion for Green Marine Fuels Trading, securing necessary port storage capacity to accommodate projected supply of green methanol from Chinese business partners.  

Green Marine will be undertaking a similar cooperation plan with Vopak Singapore as well. 

Gavin McGrath, Director at Green Marine, said: “This is an important milestone in the evolution of Green Marine Fuels Trading and further underscores our preparedness to supply green methanol to the imminent green transition within the shipping industry.” 

“Our leadership in the global methanol marine fuel sector uniquely positions us to bridge the gap between methanol producers and buyers, with storage and supply infrastructure being a crucial link in the chain.”

“We eagerly anticipate leveraging our expertise in these domains to enrich the Shanghai and Tianjin green port and marine fuel ecosystems.”

Manifold Times previously reported Vopak signing a strategic cooperation agreement with the Vice Mayor of Tianjin delegation to support the repurposing of Vopak Tianjin's infrastructure for new energies, including green methanol, sustainable aviation fuel, and potentially ammonia and liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC).

Vopak said Tianjin Port Group will work closely with Vopak to develop a green methanol bunkering service solution.

Related: Tianjin Port Group and Vopak partner to develop green methanol bunkering service


Photo credit: Green Marine Group
Published: 12 June 2024

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Alternative Fuels

Glocal Green and Norwegian Hydrogen join forces for green hydrogen and bio-methanol production

Bio-methanol will be produced from low-grade biological residual materials and by-products from forestry, agriculture, and the marine sector.





Glocal Green and Norwegian Hydrogen join forces for green hydrogen and bio-methanol production

Glocal Green AS and Norwegian Hydrogen AS on Thursday (7 June) said they entered into a concrete cooperation agreement for the development and establishment of hydrogen production in connection with Glocal Green's planned bio-methanol plant.

This comes following both companies entering into a letter of intent two years ago.

The hydrogen production will be organised into a separate jointly owned company.

“A two-year study and dialogue between us have today resulted in a joint commitment to hydrogen production in connection with Glocal Green's methanol production units,” said Dag Nikolai Ryste, CEO of Glocal Green AS.

“It has crystallised into a clear win-win model between the parties, and in addition, this efficiency will benefit all other parties along this holistic value chain, and not least the market.”

The bio-methanol will be produced from low-grade biological residual materials and by-products from forestry, agriculture, and the marine sector. 

By adding hydrogen in the production process, all the green carbon is utilised, resulting in a volumetric doubling of methanol production. This methanol, with added hydrogen, is termed bio-e-methanol. 

“The market for this green methanol is enormous and growing, both within the chemical industry and as a replacement for fossil fuels in the maritime sector and aviation,” the firms said.

Hydrogen production requires access to power, and in a growing global power deficit, high transition efficiency is important. This concept, which combines bio-waste and hydrogen, contributes to optimal energy utilisation, where the energy from the biomass, together with the energy from the added hydrogen, provides an outstanding yield to the input power. 

The result is a green liquid hydrogen carrier at a competitive price that will contribute significantly to the green transition.

The first project is in Øyer in Gudbrandsdalen. The goal here is an annual production of 150,000 tonnes of bio-e-methanol, which will also involve local production of 15,000 tonnes of green hydrogen from electrolysis. This illustrates what such a symbiosis can do for the development of hydrogen production and for Norwegian Hydrogen AS as a hydrogen player.

“This collaboration marks a significant step forward for the considerable synergies inherent in the co-location of hydrogen and bio-methanol production,” said Jens Berge, CEO of Norwegian Hydrogen AS. 

“By combining our resources and expertise, we can offer sustainable solutions that meet the increasing demand for green fuels. We look forward to realizing the many opportunities this partnership will bring, both nationally and internationally.”

Beyond the commitment in Øyer, the parties also aim to develop several similar projects, initially in the Nordic region.


Photo credit: Norwegian Hydrogen
Published: 11 June, 2024

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