Methanol Eyed as Bunker Fuel Replacement

ship meoh bunkerMethanol producer and MI member Methanex is interested in developing methanol as a possible alternative to conventional bunker fuel.

At the moment, methanol can only be used on its own, as mixing it with other fuel is not possible. However, according to energy news provider Platts, the company is looking at how to operate on a percentage basis.

A company source, speaking on the sidelines at last week’s International Methanol Producers Association (IMPCA) conference in Porto, Portugal noted that “Methanol as a marine fuel is not tried and tested yet, but once you see that it works, it would spur further investment in this area.”

Methanex, which is the world’s largest producer of methanol, has voiced optimism over the possibilities of methanol as bunker fuel.

The main factor driving methanol, alongside LNG as a marine fuel is the lowering of the sulfur limit in emission control areas, as well as the global cap pushing shipowners to move away from residual fuel oil.

Under the UN International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), world bunker fuel should contain no more than 3.5% sulfur from 2012 onward, and no more than 0.5% sulfur from 2020 onward. The limits set on sulfur dioxide in emission control areas have been lowered progressively from July 2010 and are set to be lowered further from the current 1% to 0.10% from January 1, 2015.

As shipowners tackle compliance issues with the incoming tougher regulations on emissions, there are a few options available — switch to cleaner but more expensive marine fuels like gasoil, fit exhaust-gas scrubber systems, or invest in new ships that run on alternative fuels or by retrofitting to using LNG or methanol as fuel.

As of now, shipping companies Waterfront Shipping, a Methanex subsidiary, who have commissioned seven dual-fuel vessels, and Sweden’s Stena Teknik, who are expected to commence operations with their first methanol powered passenger ferry in 2015, have taken a step into investing in the first vessels capable of running on methanol bunkers.

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