methanol bunkering

China debuts its first methanol bunkering vessel

On January 13, 2024, China’s inaugural methanol bunkering ship, Hai Gang Zhi Yuan, embarked on its maiden voyage, following a conversion process at Zhoushan Putuo Changhong Shipbuilding Co.

Image credit: China Classification Society

The ship left for Shanghai Port where it was put in operation as an integral part of Shanghai Port Clean Energy Center.

The 16,000 cbm vessel, previously known Jiuli 668, underwent a 113-day retrofit at the Chinese yard.

The conversion equipped the ship with an advanced methanol fuel system, aligning with the industry’s growing focus on cleaner and more sustainable fuel alternatives.

Owned by Shanghai SIPG Energy Services Co., a subsidiary of SIPG Group, Hai Gang Zhi Yuan can transport methanol and is designed for ship-to-ship bunkering operations during container loading and unloading. This dual functionality enhances operational efficiency and represents a pragmatic response to the demands of modern port operations.

Image credit: Zhoushan Putuo Changhong Shipbuilding

The vessel is not only China’s first methanol bunkering ship, but it is also the world’s largest methanol bunkering ship in operation.

The vessel design received Approval in Principle (AIP) from the China Classification Society (CCS) back in July 2023, allowing for the conversion process to kick-start in September.

 The ship features a total length of 139.98 meters, a molded depth of 11.2 meters, and a molded width is 20.2 meters. It has been designed with features that ensure safety, low evaporation rate, and environmental protection, CCS said.

Methanol bunkering vessel
Image credit: Zhoushan Changhong International Shipyard

Zhejiang Seahead Ship Design and Research Institute Co said at the time that the vessel would be equipped with essential features like filling hoses, emergency release devices, dry break valves, and ESD systems to ensure safe and efficient operations.

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SIPG is working with industry partners COSCO Shipping, State Power Investment Corporation (SPIC), Shanghai International Port Group (SIPG), and China Certification & Inspection Group (CCIC) on China’s first green methanol industrial chain which aims to propel shipping’s decarbonization.

The cooperation project encompasses the production, transportation, refueling, and certification of green methanol for ships.

The goal is to leverage the companies’ advantages in their respective industries to ensure the successful development of all key aspects of the green methanol industrial chain and establish a green methanol industrial chain that meets both domestic and foreign green certification standards.

The parties also aim to drive the implementation of the first batch of green methanol production projects in China.

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In the broader context of the maritime industry’s push towards sustainability, the adoption of methanol as a marine fuel is gaining traction, particularly within the container shipping segment. The move is a strategic response to global emissions reduction targets and regulatory pressures on the maritime sector.

The key driver behind the surge in interest in methanol lies in its inherent compatibility with the existing maritime infrastructure, coupled with the ready availability of technologically mature solutions, notably methanol-powered marine engines.

In 2023, the maritime industry witnessed a surge in the adoption of alternative fuels, according to DNV’s Alternative Fuels Insight (AFI) platform. A total of 298 ships with alternative fuel propulsion were ordered, marking a substantial increase compared to previous years.

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Methanol emerged as the primary choice, with 138 ships ordered, a significant jump from the 35 ordered the previous year. Container ships dominated this segment, accounting for 106 orders. LNG was the second most popular alternative fuel, with 130 vessels ordered, though showing a decline from 222 orders in 2022.