Bunkering industry considers methanol as alternative marine fuel


Participants at the International Methanol Producers and Consumers Association (IMPCA) conference in Porto, Portugal (12-13 June) said that the use of methanol as an alternative marine fuel in the European bunkering industry remains a distant possibility, according to Platts McGraw Hill Financial.

The main factor driving methanol is the reduction of the sulphur limit in emission control areas, as well as the global cap pushing ship owners to move away from residual fuel oil.

There are a few options available for ship-owners as they tackle compliance issues with tougher regulations on emissions: switch to cleaner but more expensive marine fuels like gasoil, retrofitting to using LNG or methanol as fuel, fit exhaust-gas scrubber systems or invest in new ships that run on alternative fuels.

A European producer said: “We are not upbeat on marine fuels. There are several pricing issues, the cost of retrofitting the ship, and the practical and convenient storage of methanol.”

Methanex, the world's largest producer of the product, said: “Methanol as a marine fuel is not tried and tested yet, but once you see that it works, it would spur further investment in this area.”

According to Lloyd's Register, the main advantage that methanol has over LNG as a marine fuel is the cost – estimated to be at least 20% lower when it comes to retrofitting engines for use with the fuel.

To date, the only company that has invested into developing capabilities to use methanol as a marine fuel is Methanex.

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