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Press Release: Methanol as a marine fuel gets boost

Press Release: A new series of free industry seminars is touring the world promoting the use of methanol as a marine fuel.

A recent second seminar in Mumbai, India, following one in Dubai, highlighted the growing interest in using the highly available and low emission fuel. Over 225 participants, from India’s thriving maritime industry, took part in discussions and debates focused on the strategy of building up methanol as a fuel of the future.

The seminar was organized by Sea Commerce Consulting and Institute of Marine Engineers of India (IMEI) with support from FedCom, Methanex Corporation, Methanol Institute, along with the classification societies ABS and IRS. Captain Saleem Alavi, Sea Commerce Consulting’s President and organiser of the seminar series conceived the idea of the seminar when he noticed a lack of awareness in the maritime industry of methanol as a useful marine fuel. This is despite the fuel being used in at least eight large vessels with four more on order, all on international trades.

“Methanol processed using natural gas as a feedstock has a similar emissions profile as liquid natural gas but does not need storing in cryogenic tanks like LNG”, said Captain Alavi. He also pointed to custody transfers for bunker suppliers being much easier for methanol versus LNG, the methanol being more readily available globally, as well as the ease of handling in the supply chain.
Methanol is already an industrial feedstock with a mature supply chain infrastructure, which would make the development of a bunker supply for shipping much easier than for LNG which has been singled out by critics for the difficulties in developing a suitable bunker supply network and the need to build dedicated bunker vessels.

One of the seminar sponsors, and a significant backer of methanol as a marine fuel, is Vancouver-based Methanex, the industrial methanol producer and owner of Waterfront Shipping, its ocean logistics arm which owns a fleet of methanol powered carriers. Talking at the recent Mumbai seminar Methanex, Vice President Global Market Development Ben Iosefa highlighted the low environmental footprint of methanol, as well as the attractive capital and operational costs. Methanol is a colourless liquid that can be produced from natural gas, but importantly in an industry facing the challenge of halving its CO2 emissions by 2050, can be produced from renewable sources and even from CO2.

The relative dollar tonne cost benefits of methanol, compared to gas oil, is one important factor, as is the ability to convert existing bunker tanks on tonnage to store methanol, and engines to operate off the fuel. Mr. Iosefa also said that in India, the price of methanol in terms of energy value has been approximately 20 percent cheaper than the MGO and with future expectations of higher MGO prices, this cost benefit is likely to be significantly higher following the introduction of the new IMO 2020 sulphur regulations.

In addition to the fleet of seven 50,000 dwt tankers operated for Waterfront Shipping, Stena Line, the Gothenburg, Sweden-based ferry and ro-ro operator, has been successfully operating one of its European ferries, Stena Germanica, having converted its two engines to methanol. Mr Iosefa pointed out that in the two examples the engines are from MAN ENERGY (ultra-long stroke, dual fuel engines) as well as Wärtsilä, proving the versatility of the fuel in different engine types. The panel of experts at the seminar highlighted these examples and some previous projects (such as Spireth, Summeth and MethaShip projects) that have been run to bring awareness about methanol as a useful and commercial fuel choice.

US-based classification society ABS was on hand in Mumbai to highlight the developing regulatory framework that has led to low-flashpoint fuels becoming viable commercial solutions for shipping.
When comparing methanol with other energy sources for shipping, Mark Penfold, Manager at ABS Global Gas Solutions, highlighted how well positioned methanol is as a suitable solution.
Mr. Penfold further gave an overview of the IGF Code applicable to all ships using gases or other low flashpoint fuels and provided information on the engine technologies that meet these safety regulations.

However, he was amongst the experts that said methanol as a fuel has been behind LNG in terms of regulatory development and public awareness.
“It takes a number of pieces of the puzzle to be in place, such as regulatory framework, engine technologies and bunkering infrastructure for the take up of alternative fuels to begin and with that goes a need for early adopters and greater public awareness,” said Captain Alavi.

Cdr Sandeep Kumar (Retd.), Surveyor with the Indian Register of Shipping in Mumbai summarised the seminar with an overview of the advantages and challenges of using Methanol as marine fuel. He emphasised the need for adequate risk assessment, based on a 2014 report from the European Maritime Safety Agency.
Talking about the future of the methanol as a fuel seminar series, Capt Alavi said: “We are planning more of these seminars in key maritime areas during 2019 in a bid to raise awareness of the fuel and to create a robust debate about the alternatives available for commercial shipping.

“It is important that shipowners and other key industry players such as those in finance, insurance and ship design understand the range of possibilities as they look to find answers to the tough questions facing global shipping between 2020 and 2050, answers that will undoubtedly call for new fuel solutions”.
For more details of the seminar series or if you want to have a workshop on Alternate Fuels/Sulphur Cap 2020 and solutions, kindly contact: Captain Saleem Alavi, President
Sea Commerce Email: info@seacommerce.co www.seacommerce.co


About Author

Craig Eason Stockholm
Craig Eason is the owner and editorial director of Fathom.World. He has a background in the shipping industry having started his career as a cadet on oil tankers and gas carriers before becoming a navigating officer on a range of vessel types. A change in career, with ensuing university studies, and he has now gained 20 years experience in written and broadcast journalism. He now is in demand as a knowledgeable and competent editor and event host and moderator, both for in-house events and ones for the public.