Drewry bullish on methanol’s role in decarbonizing shipping

UK-based shipping consultancy Drewry expects half of the vessels ordered after 2025 to have dual-fuel engines, with a large percentage using methanol as marine fuel.

Illustration/Methanol powered vessel; Image by Waterfront Shipping

Methanol is viewed as a good replacement for traditional marine fuels due to its potential to reduce GHG emissions since it doesn’t contain NOx and Sulfur and PM emissions are very low. 

The fuel has been described as easy to handle and is generally compatible with most engine types.

As explained, the conversion cost of existing engines to run on methanol is also significantly lower than other alternative fuel conversions.

From a safety viewpoint, methanol shares the same characteristic of a low flash point with LNG, but unlike LNG, which requires refrigeration and high pressure, it can be stored in an ordinary tank with few modifications.

Speaking from an infrastructural standpoint, it is readily available and easily accessible on a global scale, and existing bunker ships and storage tanks can easily be converted to carry and store methanol.

“We believe methanol will be one of the transition fuels to lead the maritime sector towards zero-emission options such as hydrogen, green ammonia or even solar power. As such, renewable methanol will be one of the fuels that will help the maritime sector to achieve the IMO’s 2050 carbon emissions targets,” the consultancy said.

With regard to its competitiveness, methanol’s price is expected to become more competitive with VLSFO between 2025 and 2050 since its production can be easily ramped up with the demand increase.

Variants of methanol like bio-methanol and electro-methanol can help shipowners meet IMO-2050 GHG emission targets with almost negligible investments, Drewry said. Bio-methanol is produced from waste while electro-methanol is produced using carbon-capture and a storage method.

Early adopters of methanol as fuel include Waterfront Shipping, a subsidiary of Methanex. The company has eight 50,000 dwt methanol-fuelled tankers on order and 11 ships sailing in the ocean.

In 2019, a joint venture between Proman Shipping AG and Stena Bulk AB ordered two methanol-fuelled two tankers and added two more tankers in 2020. The latest one to join the bandwagon is Maersk, which hopes to have its methanol-powered feeder completed in 2023.

Related Article

All 11 current active methanol dual-fuelled vessels are methanol carriers, and in 2020, the total volume of methanol used as marine fuel was 133,000 tonnes. Additionally, other IMO class tankers currently trading in chemicals and CPPs also present an opportunity for using methanol as fuel as they will face the least bunkering problems.