The shift to methanol fuels gains momentum

Methanol has edged forward towards becoming the leading replacement for fuel oil in ship propulsion. Maersk has placed a second order for dual-fuel methanol power vessels, stating on Wednesday 5thOctober that the company had ordered “a further six large ocean-going vessels that can sail on green methanol. The six vessels will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and have a nominal capacity of approx. 17,000 containers (Twenty Foot Equivalent – TEU). They will replace existing capacity in the Maersk fleet”. This follows a first order of dual-fuel vessels in 2021 combined with a joint venture with a methanol production company in Denmark.

The large agricultural commodity trader Cargill has said that it is looking to order methanol powered vessels. It is a major charterer of bulk-ships and been looking at alternative means of powering its ships, including ammonia and wind-power. However, Oliver Josse, the Cargill manager responsible for fuels technology commented yesterday that the company was intending to purchase methanol powered ships.

Other shipping lines have also begun to order methanol fuel vessels, with CMA CGM ordering 16 ships with a dual-fuel capability in June of this year. MSC is said to be studying the problem.

However, the Japanese continue to go their own way. NYK announced in September that it was designing an ammonia bunkering vessel, whilst Mitsubishi is busy constructing a large-scale production and distribution system for ammonia, including constructing an ammonia hub in Corpus Christi in the US.

It appears that the shipping sector is serious about shifting to these new fuels. If the largest carriers start using alternative fuels the economics of bunker-fuel will change and much of the rest of the sector is likely to be dragged-along with it. This might be painful, bearing in mind how difficult the comparatively simple shift to higher grades of fuel oil has been in the recent past.

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Source: Transport Intelligence, 6th October 2022

Author: Thomas Cullen