New fuels ‘will power the world fleet by 2050’ PDF Print E-mail

Tue 28 Feb 2017 by Paul Gunton

UPDATED: New fuels ‘will power the world fleet by 2050’Tristan Smith (University College London): Shipping faces a “radical change in fuel” and charterers will help raise development funding (credit: ABB)

Tankers and other bulk shipping sectors will have to use new energy sources if shipping is to adapt to expected restrictions on carbon emissions, predicted Tristan Smith, a reader at University College London who studies the environmental impacts of shipping. Synthetic fuels, including hydrogen, will replace HFO and much of the funding to encourage the transition will be organised by charterers, he said in London today (28 February).

He was taking part in a round-table discussion organised by ABB’s Marine and Ports business unit to explore future power options, a scenario that it calls Shipping 4.0.

“Shipping demand will grow and the CO2 emissions it will be allowed to emit as a sector will decrease,” Dr Smith said. By 2050, he predicted, CO2 emissions per tonne-mile will have to fall by 60-90 per cent if the Paris agreement on climate change is to be met and that will need “either a radical change in fuel or a radical change in speed.”

Since it does not make sense to operate at slow speeds, new fuels will be inevitable, he said, and the future lies with electric ships powered by fuel cells that take their energy from fuels such as hydrogen, ammonia or similar “power to liquids”, he said. In his presentation he focused on hydrogen, but later told Tanker Shipping & Trade that “the market and technologies will be where the winning fuel will be determined.”

He described what he termed his ‘hydrogen hypothesis’, in which the gas would be produced by using renewable energy from wind and solar power, in effect storing that energy at times when it would otherwise be surplus to demand, he said.

He ruled out biofuel as a long-term ship fuelling option as there will not be enough of it, according to his forecasts. And although LNG is an alternative to hydrogen for fuel cells, it would not be carbon neutral and would be only an interim technology, he said. Hydrogen-fuelled ships could become economic by 2030, he believes, assuming technical and regulatory developments.

In January, 13 industry giants, including Shell, Total and Engie, came together at Davos to launch the Hydrogen Council to promote the gas as a cleaner-burning fuel source. 

In the tanker and bulk trades, charterers will play an important role in raising the finance to develop the technologies needed, he said, because they “carry the risk of the shipowners not being ready for decarbonised regulation.” Without new fuelling technologies, when regulation comes, “they will be paying much higher rates because they will be paying the extra carbon price.”

Speaking later to Tanker Shipping & Trade, he cited as an example Shell’s experiments in 2015 with an air-bubble lubrication system to reduce fuel consumption as an example of a charterer supporting emission-reducing technology. In the bulk sector, he mentioned Cargill and Bunge, which are members of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative as examples of charterers that are supporting environmental shipping goals.

Regulation or some other measures to restrict CO2 emissions are inevitable, he said, which could lead to a carbon price being set for emissions. By then, “you need technology to be enabled and made cheaper so that costs are reduced until it becomes cheaper than a fossil fuel equivalent,” he said.

MOL Announces Delivery of Latest Methanol-Powered Vessel PDF Print E-mail
MOL Announces Delivery of Latest Methanol-Powered Vessel

The 50,000 DWT dual-fuel methanol carrier Cajun Sunwas delivered on November 10.

Mitsui O.S.K. Lines, Ltd. (MOL) has announced the November 10 delivery at Japan's Minaminippon Shipbuilding Co., Ltd. (Minaminippon) of the 50,000 DWTdual-fuel methanol carrier Cajun Sun - the latest in a series of newbuild vessels featuring methanol-propulsion, as well as traditional HFO and MGO.

"Methanol significantly reduces smog-causing emissions such as particulates, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides," said MOL.

"In addition, it is also equipped with a ballast water treatment system, ahead of treaty requirements mandating such systems, and adopts energy-saving accessories in front of and astern of the propellers."

Methanol significantly reduces smog-causing emissions


The vessel is slated to be put on long-term charter with Waterfront Shipping Company Limited (Waterfront Shipping).

In June, Ship & Bunker reported that Cajun Sun's sister vessel, Taranaki Sun, embarked on its maiden voyage to China.

In April, Knut Ørbeck-Nilssen, CEO at DNV GL – Maritime, said methanol bunkers offer a "promising" solution for those operating vessels within emission control areas (ECAs).

US$ 133.3 Mn Renewable Methanol Market to Grow Steadily Through 2026 PDF Print E-mail

VALLEY COTTAGE, New York, November 14, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --

Future Market Insights delivers key insights on the globalrenewable methanol [ ] marketin its latest report titled "Renewable Methanol Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment, 2016-2026". According to the report, global sales of renewable methanol is estimated to be valued at US$ 133.3 Mn by the end of 2016, witnessing a Y-o-Y growth of 5.2% over 2015.


Renewable methanol is a second generation biofuel and is derived from renewable sources such as biomass, industrial waste, municipal waste, and industrial CO2. Renewable methanol is used as a transportation fuel after blending it with other chemicals. The main reason for the rise in demand for renewable methanol as a fuel is the implementation of regulations especially in Europe and North America that over 10% of the transport fuel should come from renewable sources by the end of 2020. Renewable methanol that is produced through the gasification process and using biomass is used as a liquid motor fuel as it has a high hydrogen to carbon ratio due to its high octane rating. Moreover, the use of renewable methanol is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by over 15%-20% as compared to other fuels. Another major advantage of renewable methanol is that when produced using industrial waste and municipal waste, it reduces the waste content and converts it to usable energy.

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Environmental pollution from CO2emissions and import of crude oil for fuel has resulted in the adoption of renewable energy sources. Thus, reduction of agricultural waste and conversion of municipal solid waste into syngas and further into renewable methanol can offer lucrative growth opportunities for key players operating in the global renewable methanol market.

Segmentation highlights

On the basis of primary source, the global renewable methanol market can be segmented into biomass, industrial waste, municipal waste, and others; and on the basis of end-use application into formaldehyde, MTBE, gasoline, dimethyl ether, solvents, and others.

- The biomass primary source segment is expected to hold significant share in the global renewable methanol market and is estimated to register the highest CAGR of 7.0% in terms of value over the forecast period. The segment is expected to create incremental opportunity of US$ 53.7 Mn during 2016-2026 - The MTBE end-use application segment is anticipated to register the highest CAGR of 8.1% in terms of value between 2016 and 2026. This segment is expected to gain traction over the forecast period due to increasing demand for fuel blends from the automotive industry 

Preview Analysis on Global Renewable Methanol Market Segmentation By Primary Source - Biomass, Municipal Waste and Industrial Waste, By End-Use Application - Formaldehyde, MTBE, Gasoline, Dimethyl Ether, Solvents and Others:

Regional market projections

The global renewable methanol market is segmented on the basis of region into North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Asia Pacific Excluding Japan, Japan, and Middle East & Africa. APEJ is expected to register the highest CAGR in terms of value over the forecast period. Australia and China are highly focussed on using renewable methanol as a fuel blend. The Philippines and Myanmar have also passed various policies mandating the use of fuel blended with renewable methanol by the end of 2020. North America is estimated to account for 26.1% value share of the global renewable methanol market by the end of 2016 and is projected to dominate the global market throughout the forecast period.

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Vendor insights

The report features some of the top companies operating in the global renewable methanol market. Leading market players profiled in the report are BioMCN, Methanex Corporation, Enerkem, Chemrec Inc., Carbon Recycling International, and VarmlandsMetanol. These players have adopted the strategy of signing long-term supply agreements with feedstock suppliers and end-use customers to maintain continuous supply of renewable methanol. Moreover, these companies are also focussing on the transport sector as this sector is expected to offer lucrative opportunities over the forecast period.

Vermont Renewable mandate and carbon tax on fuels PDF Print E-mail
November 07,2016

Vermont is on a course to a goal that would have 90 percent of all of our energy, including automobiles, come from so-called renewable sources.

The bulk of that would come from giant wind and solar farms; in fact, David Blittersdorf (CEO of All Earth Renewables) estimates that we would need 200 miles of ridge line wind turbines, Vermont is 160 miles long.

Add to that the upcoming push to pass a huge tax on home heating oil, natural gas, propane and gasoline (among others) and we are facing some huge obstacles to our way of life here in Vermont.

As a 30-year resident of this area and lifelong Vermonter, I think it is extremely important that we know where the people who want to represent us in the State House stand on these issues.

They are all very aware of it and we should be asking all of them now, before the election.

Ivan St. George

The Case For Methanol PDF Print E-mail

In the past few decades, sustainable technologies have multiplied rapidly. The price of solar and wind energy has crashed, leading to a sustainable energy boom. Simultaneously, the public has grown more comfortable with electric vehicles, thanks to increasing range and flashy brands like Tesla showing what EVs are capable of.

It would seem fossils are on their way out, but there are less glamorous aspects of our current fossil-fueled system that these technologies alone cannot replace.

Anyone who’s spent any time in the “right wing” fever swamp will be familiar with the question, “What happens when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine?” It’s a talking point cooked up by the fossil fuel industry, but it does have a kernel of truth to it! The energy produced by most wind and solar installations is intermittent. It’s the first problem with a solar/wind system:

1. Dispatchability

We have to have a way to store the energy produced by renewable sources so that we can use it later when those sources go offline. There are a number of different approaches to this problem, such as pumped hydro storage, an enhanced smart grid, and reused EV batteries. Each poses difficulties in terms of scale, cost, or coverage.

Another difficulty facing a pure wind/solar/EV system is applications where batteries don’t really work and electrical transmission lines are too expensive to run. This is the second problem with such a system:

2. Freight

Batteries in cars work fairly well, because for the most part they are pulling a bunch of air and a few tiny monkey bodies (and maybe a canine body or two). The weight is fairly low. This is not the case for the 18-wheelers that haul our food and consumer goods around. To make such a vehicle function with batteries alone requires a battery so massive that it crowds out half the space used to haul goods. To get around this, it couldbe possible to electrify the highway systems, and this is indeed being done in Swedenand elsewhere. The problem is that it’s very expensive, and trucks can’t stray far from power lines.

One final thing that fossils give us is something we use every day and usually take for granted. In the immortal words of Mr. McGuire from The Graduate:

3. Plastics

The hydrocarbon chains in crude oil are perfect for creating the plastics that we use every day, in wind turbines, solar panels, and electric cars, among other places.


What might we be able to use to replace fossil fuels that can be used to make plastics, to generate on-demand electricity, and to power our system of freight transport?

The answer is fairly simple: Use the same chemicals we’re currently using, but source them from a different place.

If we aren’t limiting ourselves to the molecular configuration of fossil deposits, we can specify the attributes we want in a chemical fuel and custom-design a molecule to meet those needs. Those attributes are that it should be a liquid at room temperature, and that it should be low in carbon. With those requirements in mind, it turns out the optimal carbon-based chemical fuel is methanol.

The chemical formula for methanol is CH₃OH. It’s also known as methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, wood naphtha, methyl hydrate, or wood spirits. It’s very similar to methane, and basically only differs in that there’s an extra oxygen thrown in. That oxygen is important, because it causes the fuel to be a liquid instead of a gas at room temperature. That means it doesn’t require expensive infrastructure to compress and contain it.

One of the main champions of methanol is someone named George Olah, and he got a bit of media attention about a decade ago during the tail end of the Bush administration when fuel cells were being pushed for vehicles. He’s no Bill Nye, but he’sright about the benefits of methanol as a fuel!

The volumetric density of methanol is high relative to other low-carbon fuels, so vehicles which run on it can travel extremely long distances, 800 km in one example.

Similar hybrid technology in tractor trailers is projected to reduce fuel requirements by21% and with methanol as an energy source instead of diesel, would significantly reduce particulate pollution. Diesel is more energy dense, but with increased efficiency, expansion of fuel tank sizes could still be manageable.

It turns out that methanol can also be an important feedstock for plastics, and there are already demonstration projects in operation that use it to do just that.

Perhaps even more attractive is the ability of methanol to act as chemical storage for renewable energy. It’s long term, the potential scale is massive, and it can be stored almost anywhere. Unlike gasoline, it evaporates fairly quickly so it poses less of a danger to water supplies if it were to spill, and best of all, it can be carbon negative.

The raw materials to create methanol are all around us. They are in sewage, in garbage, and in agricultural waste. Almost all of the carbon in these materials comes from the sky. It’s incorporated into the bodies of plants as they grow. Extracting the raw materials to create methanol from biomass is as simple as heating it in the absence of oxygen. When this is done, an additional byproduct is a more stable form of carbon that’s less likely to go back into the sky, as I have noted in another essay.

Using renewable energy to extract H₂ and CO from biomass and to refine these chemicals into methanol would result in a stable, long-term energy storage medium that could be scaled up to meet all of our transportation and energy stability needs, to produce plastics sustainably as well as to reduce the amount of CO₂ in the sky … which sounds pretty good, right?

Now, the bad news: You need a catalyst to create methanol from these primitive components, and it turns out catalysts can be difficult. They oxidise, they rot, they’re expensive and difficult to produce. These obstacles have been surmounted in at least one biomass-to-methanol refinery in Edmonton, AlbertaCopper and zinc seem to be catalysts of choice.

Methanol is also corrosive. Fuel tanks and supply hoses need to be corrosion-resistant to properly contain it.

Even given these drawbacks, methanol is superior to other types of chemical fuel. With additional energy input from solar panels and wind turbines, there’s essentially no limit to how much methanol we could create, no limit to how much energy we could store, and no restrictions on where we could do it. Anywhere there’s trash, there’s a potential.

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