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Shipping and maritime

Sustainable fuels

Danish project to enable the greenest liquid fuel to be used in diesel engines

27 February 2020

As the green agenda is increasingly integrated into the maritime transport sector, alternative fuels are in high demand. The United Nations and the international maritime organisation IMO wish for the shipping industry to reduce greenhouse gases by 40 per cent in 2030 and 50 per cent in 2050.

Methanol is one of the most promising fossil-free fuels for future shipping; it is available in abundance, it is clean and has the lowest carbon footprint of all liquid fuels. Currently, methanol can only be used in smaller special engines, or in conjunction with dual-fuel technology on the larger ships. Installing this technology is expensive and requires two separate tank systems, one for diesel fuel and one for methanol. Accordingly, a shortcut to CO2-neutral shipping is to use methanol directly in existing diesel engines.

A Danish project aims to convert existing diesel-fueled maritime vessels into ones that can use alternative fuels such as methanol.

“With the project, we want to create a shortcut to enable ships with diesel engines to become fossil-free. We want to find a simple solution for existing engines so that shipping can replace diesel with methanol as a CO2-neutral, alternative fuel,” said Senior Specialist Kim Winther, Technological Institute about the motive for the project in a press release (in Danish).

The project, supported by the Danish Energy Agency's support programme EUDP, is also focused on making it cost-effective to convert existing vessels to sail on methanol. The Danish Technological Institute is the project manager and the partners include MAN Energy Solutions, Alfa Laval, Nordic Green and the Technical University of Denmark (DTU).

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Demand for alternative solutions

MAN Energy Solutions is experiencing some demand for alternative fuel engines and, with the project, they wish to offer an economic, effective solution for their 4-stroke engines.

“We want to cover the market for ship engines for many different fuels. Methanol is a good alternative to diesel in terms of price. At the same time, it is possible to obtain methanol anywhere in the world and it is easy to transport. That's why the project makes good sense to us,” said engineer Klaus Petersen from MAN Energy Solutions, and continued:

“I am confident that the project will succeed, so I expect that we will offer an attractive service package for methanol when the project is over. This service package should preferably be competitive on price and ensure that we can still sail with the highest performance possible.”

Diesel engines cannot, as of now, run on methanol. Therefore, the project must work on a number of technical measures, however,  without major intervention in the engine itself.


The Danish Technological Institute (in Danish)

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