Methanol as a Game-Changer for Clean Shipping

August 1, 2023 /

Methanol has been considered as a potential clean fuel for the shipping industry due to its lower emissions compared to traditional marine fuels. It is a type of alcohol with the chemical formula CH3OH and can be produced from a variety of sources, including natural gas, biomass, and carbon dioxide (CO2) captured from industrial processes. Here are some key points about methanol as a clean fuel in shipping:

Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions: Methanol combustion emits fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) and particulate matter compared to conventional marine fuels such as heavy fuel oil. It also has lower sulfur content, which helps reduce sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions.

Potential to Use Existing Infrastructure: One advantage of methanol is that it can be used in existing internal combustion engine technology with some modifications, making it easier to adopt compared to entirely new propulsion systems.

Liquid at Ambient Temperature: Methanol is a liquid at ambient temperatures, simplifying storage and handling compared to some other alternative fuels like liquefied natural gas (LNG), which requires cryogenic storage.

Dual-Fuel Engines: Methanol can be used in dual-fuel engines, where it is mixed with air and then ignited by a small amount of diesel fuel. This technology allows ships to switch between methanol and diesel fuel, providing flexibility during the transition to cleaner fuels.

Challenges: Despite its potential benefits, there are some challenges associated with using methanol as a marine fuel. One significant challenge is its lower energy density compared to conventional marine fuels, which means ships may need larger fuel tanks to achieve the same range. Additionally, the infrastructure for producing, storing, and distributing methanol as a marine fuel would need to be developed and expanded.

Safety Considerations: Methanol is flammable and toxic, requiring strict safety protocols in handling and storage. However, proper safety measures can mitigate these risks effectively.

Regulatory and Market Developments: The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has been working to implement stricter regulations to reduce GHG emissions from the shipping industry. Methanol is one of the alternative fuels being explored as a means of complying with these regulations.

It's important to note that while methanol has its advantages, the transition to cleaner fuels in shipping is a complex process that involves considering various factors such as the availability of sustainable methanol production, cost-effectiveness, and technical feasibility. Other clean fuels, such as LNG, hydrogen, and ammonia, are also being explored as part of the industry's efforts to decarbonise and reduce its environmental impact.

If you would like to get in contact with us to discuss clean shipping methods please use our contact form or by speak to one of our operators by calling 02380 337 778.