The quest for low-emission ship propulsion concepts is driving the development of alternative solutions using a wider range of fuels. The latest entry into the fuel mix is methanol. The DNV GL-classed vessel Lindanger, launched at Hyundai Mipo Dockyard in South Korea, is the first of two 50,000 dwt, dual-fuel tankers worldwide. It brought together a whole consortium of companies eager to establish methanol as an alternative marine fuel.
“We are not only welcoming a new vessel but also a groundbreaking innovative technology to the shipping industry,” said Rolf Westfal-Larsen, President and CEO of the Norwegian company Westfal-Larsen Management, which owns Lindanger and another methanol-fuelled tanker still on order. Both belong to a series of seven dual-fuel vessels which will be chartered to Waterfront Shipping. Waterfront is a wholly owned subsidiary of Methanex Corporation, the world’s largest producer and supplier of methanol. Four of the vessels, including Lindanger, will be classed by DNV GL, and DNV GL has also carried out a hazard identification study on the remaining three ships.
Lindanger during her final outfitting stages at the pier in Korea.
“This is the first time a dual-fuel engine with a low-flashpoint liquid (LFL) fuel system has been installed on an ocean-going vessel. It is a testament to the excellent cooperation between all the project partners that we have been able to complete this unique project and gain flag state approval,” says Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO at DNV GL – Maritime.
Seamless fuel switch
The impetus to use methanol as a marine fuel came from Waterfront Shipping. “In 2012 we were looking to renew part of our fleet to meet growing market demand. So we invited Westfal Larsen, Mitsui OSK Lines and Marinvest to collaborate with us on taking the methanol dual-fuel concept to the next level,” says Jone Hognestad, President at Waterfront Shipping. “It is exciting to be working with our partners to advance this new, clean technology. Investing in methanol-based marine fuel is an important step in the right direction and reinforces our commitment to sustainable proven technology that provides environmental benefits and meets emission regulations,” he adds.
The engine required to operate the vessels with methanol as a ship fuel is based on the first-of-its kind MAN B&W ME-LGI twostroke dual-fuel engine. The 6G50ME-9.3 ME-LGI dual-fuel, twostroke engine enables Lindanger to run on methanol, heavy fuel oil (HFO), marine diesel oil (MDO) or marine gas oil (MGO). “We developed these two-stroke engines in response to interest from the shipping world to operate on alternatives to heavy fuel oil and meet increasingly stringent emission regulations. To hedge the risk of fuel price volatility, the vessels can switch between fuels seamlessly, and operate cost-effectively,” states Ole Grøne, Senior Vice President, Head of Marketing and Sales, at MAN Diesel & Turbo. “When running on methanol the engines have the same or even a slightly better efficiency record compared to conventional heavy fuel-burning engines,” he adds.
“Methanol will reduce sulphur emissions (SOX) by about 95 per cent and nitrogen oxide emissions (NOX) by about 30 per cent compared to conventional marine diesel oil, and therefore could become one of the popular alternative marine fuels in the future. We are so privileged to become the first shipyard in the world to deliver a methanol-fuelled vessel,” adds Man Choon Kim, Vice President, Contract Management Department, Hyundai Mipo Dockyard.
Ensuring safe operation
The shipping industry has a long history of handling methanol safely. As is the case for all marine fuels, the risks associated with methanol include toxicity and flammability. The properties and toxicity of methanol are well understood, and safety features that minimize risk to the crew, such as double-walled piping, are technically simple to implement and support the safe use of methanol as a marine fuel.
Lowering the gigantic dual-fuel engine designed by MAN Diesel & Turbo into the hull is high-precision work.
DNV GL was one of the class societies that verified the engine concept: “The classes have played a very important role in supporting the development of these engines. They have been involved from the design stage, through HAZOP, testing and sea trials through to notation for using methanol as a marine fuel,” says Hognestad from Waterfront Shipping. The DNV GL-classed vessels have been assigned the additional notation LFL FUELLED to demonstrate compliance with the DNV GL rules for low-flashpoint liquid fuels (LFL). DNV GL was the first classification society to publish rules covering LFL marine fuels in July 2013, to ensure that the arrangement and installation of these systems have an equivalent integrity level in terms of safety and availability as a conventional system.
When the ME-LGI engine operates on methanol, it uses HFO, MDO, or MGO as a pilot fuel, significantly reducing CO2, NOX and SOX emissions while eliminating methanol slip.
Clean, cost-effective and globally available
According to Methanex, by the end of 2016 there will be eight large vessels in commercial operation capable of running on methanol, and interest from the industry is growing. Methanol is produced from natural gas or renewable sources, such as biomass, recycled CO2, or agricultural and timber waste. Its energy content is roughly half that of standard heavy fuel oil, but as it is a liquid, methanol can be handled using conventional bunkering and storage solutions without having to make extensive modifications. Sulphur-free and with lower particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions, methanol is also a promising option for vessels operating in emission control areas (ECAs) and for meeting both current and future regulations covering sulphur emissions.
As one of the top five chemical commodities shipped around the world, methanol is available globally through existing infrastructure. “This makes it a more feasible fuel option in remote areas, as the infrastructure required to make it available is far less costly than for comparable fuels,” explains Ben Iosefa, Methanex Vice President, Global Market Development and Stakeholder Relations.
The cost to build new and convert existing vessels to run on methanol is significantly less than for other alternative fuels. “The technology significantly reduces emissions while giving shipowners a viable, efficient and convenient fuel alternative,” says Waterfront’s Jone Hognestad. “With this investment in sustainable marine technology, we have demonstrated and verified the potential for methanol to move the shipping industry forward.”