The subject of green fuels is still under discussion in many places. We introduced already ammonia and hydrogen. However last week pops up information about Maersk and their order of 8 carbon neutral vessels! This is definitely breaking news for the whole industry, green methanol will power Maersk vessels. The main question is if the rest of the industry will follow this solution, or they will try to take over the market leader, with the other solutions? Never then less, Maersk will be first, and most probably, they will be a trendsetter. How this solution will work in practice?
Maersk order – 8 Green Methanol Vessels
Maersk has ordered 8, 16.000TEU vessels. Engines will provide MAN. (More details here). MAN B&W 6G50ME-LGIM (-Liquid Gas Injection Methanol). This unit will be the heart of these vessels. Their construction is based on the well-known engine ME (Described by us, here!). Above all, this engine will be dual fuel. It means, it can burn diesel and methanol. This makes the shipowner calm, because Maersk is now looking for a supplier of green methanol. However, even without the supplier, vessels can sail.
Vessels will be realize by HHI – Hyundai Heavy Industries in South Korea. The complete cost of the vessel will be 15% higher, than the average container ship of this size. The price of each vessel is 175m $. The expected delivery date of the first ship is 2024.
Biggest advantages of Green Methanol?
In my opinion, the biggest advantage of green methanol is the same technology as the engines. This means that the same, well-known engines, with small modifications, still can be in use. Theoretically, it is only a small advantage, but from a business point of view, this is a key advantage. Same superintendents and engineers can cover the maintenance job, which will not create additional cost and know-how. These two points are really serious game-changer, and I totally understand the decision of Maersk.
Ok, methanol needs to adjust the size of piping, and the size of tanks. (Tanks needs to be bigger in comparison to Marine Diesel Oil), but this was the cost of every green fuel, except micro nuclear power plants. However, alcohol is more corrosive than fuel. So this requires some small changes in the types of materials, which can be used. Good to mention that this is not a new concept!
“The work by Caterpillar on methanol CI engine trucks is a good example of how glow plugs can be applied to support ignition (Richards 1990). Another approach, selected by Wärtsilä for Stena Germanica and also by MAN, is to use a pilot injection of diesel fuel to ignite the bulk of methanol fuel (Haraldson 2015, MAN 2015).” This brings us to the next point:
What impact made Stena Lina on Maersk?
Stena Germanica is the world’s first methanol-powered RoPax (passenger and freight) ferry. The vessel operates on the Gothenburg – Kiel route. Stena Germanica conversion of the main propulsion machinery, 4 x Wärtsilä 8ZAL40S Totally 24.000 kW of power. The conversion took place at Remontowa shipyard Gdansk in March 2015. Therefore, vessel was equipped with:
– New common rail system
– High pressure double walled pipe
– High pressure pump
– Methanol tank in double bottom tanks
– Innert gas system
The project enabled the vessel to run on methanol as primary fuel and marine gas fuel (MGO) as back-up. It also enabled the ferry to reduce its sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions by 99%, nitrogen oxide (Nox) emissions by 60%, particulates by 95% and carbon dioxide emissions by 25%.
The overall cost of the project was €22.5m (approximately $25.5m), 50%of which was met through a grant offered by the European Union’s Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T).
Ok, we start to run vessels on Vodka?
Of course not! Vodka is ethanol, not methanol! So we are safe, vessels will not consume whole alcohol of the world. But that green methanol or bio-methanol really means?
Methanol is the simplest alcohol with the chemical formula: CH3OH.
It is a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a specific alcohol odor ( It is also highly toxic! You cannot consume it). Methanol has an energy value of 16MJ/l. “Grey” methanol is produced with the use of natural gas as a feedstock. It has emissions similar to other fossil fuels such as LNG or MDO. Global methanol production is currently around 80 million metric tonnes per year. “Green” methanol (or bio-methanol) may be produce via biological pathways (anaerobic digestion), thermo-chemical pathways (gasification), or electro fuel pathways. As a renewable fuel bio-methanol has a much lower global warming potential than fossil fuels.
Biogas conversion to green methanol – Maersk Plan
The BioReFuel project runs from 2020 to 2023. Lemvig Biogas is assessing the storage of electricity in the form of methanol. This has to be obtained through the conversion of CO2 in the biogas and hydrogen via the electrolysis of electricity. These processes are looking like this:
Haldor Topsøe, Aarhus University, and others are examining the production of green methanol based on biogas. The applied technology involves splitting biogas. It is using an electrically driven catalytic converter with additional energy injection in the form of hydrogen produced using electrolysis technology to convert the products of the split biogas into methanol. Methanol synthesis is an exothermic reaction. It is concluded between 200 – 300°C and 3.5 and 10 MPa. Energy efficiency of a whole process looks like on the chart below:
Supplier of a green methanol
Maersk is currently looking for a supplier of this fuel. As always during changes in the industry, there are coming new problems. In this case, bunkering of a significant amount of methanol. They will work in close cooperation with REintegrate and European Energy. This cooperation most probably will solve the problem with bunkering in Europe.
However, there are big chances for an Asian market to open the same cooperation with Maersk. Asia is a much more comfortable place to bunker the vessel because Europe and the United States are importing from this area a lot of goods.
In my opinion, green methanol could be a game-changer. At the same time, it could be a star of one season, and other companies can focus on different types of fuels. However, the race is not yet finished. I am really looking forward to seeing the reply of other big players. Therefore, CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd, and ONE need to reply to the solution of Maersk. What do You think? They will consider different fuels, or they will follow the Maersk path?