Methanol Burns Cleanly, Making it an ECA Alternative

stena-germanica-3-dd702f10-78a4-4c5d-8700-9db2b349a05aA methanol pilot project is scheduled to commence in early 2015 on the ferry Stena Germanic following a “minor conversion” of the vessel’s main engines.  The vessel will be modified in January 2015 to run one of its four main engines on methanol, according to Per Stefenson from Stena Teknik, part of the Swedish Stena Group.  Stefenson called the modifications required relatively simple and said it has been confirmed that the cost to convert a vessel to run on methanol would be just a third of the cost of converting a vessel to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Another advantage, according to Stena’s Ulf T Freundahl, is that regulations would allow placing methanol tanks in spaces within the ship’s hull, which can otherwise only be used for ballast water. Methanol and LNG are both produced from natural gas and methanol costs more to make than LNG. However, Stena believes that the relative ease of handling methanol, lending itself to a lower cost of distribution more closely emulating traditional bunker fuels, means the price of methanol delivered to ship can compete with LNG.

Stena has been the driving force behind a Swedish push to recognize methanol as an alternative fuel, motivated by the company’s search for a viable alternative to MGO for operations in emission control areas (ECAs). News that the world’s biggest methanol company, MI member Methanex, has ordered seven methanol tankers that will run on methanol in large two-stroke engines supplied by MAN Diesel & Turbo was a major step forward for methanol as a marine fuel.

At a recent conference about methanol as a marine fuel, Lennart Haraldssons from Wärtsilä, a Finnish engine maker which will be involved in the pilot project on the Stena vessel, discussed the fact that the company has already had enquiries from shipping companies in Italy, the US, and Asia – including China, about methanol.

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