Ports face a huge challenge to meet the container line’s green fuel demand as it advances plans to operate 19 methanol-fuelled container vessels from 2024.
Container liner Maersk has urged ports to “step up” as it prepares to put to sea a fleet that will use 750,000 tonnes of green methanol annually. The company has acknowledged that despite its significant investments in methanol production – most recently agreeing to explore a large-scale green fuel project with the Spanish government – the need for supply and bunkering infrastructure remains largely unfulfilled.
Maersk will launch a ‘pilot scale’ methanol-fuelled vessel next year, requiring 10,000 tonnes of a year. In 2024 it will take delivery of a further 18 large containerships with MAN dual-fuel methanol engines. The company’s quest to secure the required volumes has taken it way upstream, partnering with methanol production start-ups – one of which is already generating green methanol and several others in early stages of exploration.
Speaking at GreenPort Congress & Cruise 2022 in Bruges, Maersk’s Senior Decarbonisation Integration Manager Sameer Bhatnagar noted that the challenges of developing the required infrastructure to deliver the green fuel remained largely unappreciated. These include green transportation to dockside storage, sufficient storage capacity to accommodate mass distribution to bunkering pipelines and barges, as well as ensuring the quality and quantity of methanol delivered.
“Fuel supply infrastructure has to change radically and this is taking some time to materialise,” said Bhatnagar. “This needs commitment across the supply chain, including from energy suppliers and ports. I hope port operators will step up and not wait for a regulatory framework to be put in place.”
Maersk is active in two green corridor projects, from Shanghai to Long Beach and Singapore to Rotterdam. The projects are in detailed planning but execution has yet to begin, and Bhatnagar noted that it would be good to see more progress in similar exercises. And he noted the importance of incentives for first movers, regulatory regimes for green fuel acceptance and simplified documentation and permitting processes.
Ports at the conference highlighted their response to growing demand from ship operators for green fuels. The Port of Newcastle aims to shift from a primarily coal-based throughput to a hydrogen production and export hub, said Chief Financial Officer Nick Likesy. The recently merged Port of Antwerp-Bruges aims to play a lead role in developing a ‘Hydrogen Valley’ that includes a 100MW power-to-gas facility in Zeebrugges, sourcing green electricity from around 26 offshore windfarms as well as importing green hydrogen.
As reported, the Port of Amsterdam is already exploring the production and use of a novel powdered hydrogen carrier that could dramatically simplify the use of the fuel in shipping. Innovation Manager Jan Egbertsen noted the port’s involvement in the Green Methanol Maritime project, a Dutch initiative investigating all aspects of developing a supply chain, regulatory framework and technologies to enable methanol-fuelled shipping.