OCI, Unibarge to develop green methanol-fueled bunker barge

Dutch fuel producer OCI N.V. (OCI) has joined forces with compatriot barge operator Unibarge to develop Europe’s first dual-fuel bunker barge powered by green methanol.


The barge will be the first green inland waterway craft in Europe to also serve as a methanol bunker delivery vessel, both delivering and operating on green methanol, according to the companies. It will be deployed at the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest port, in 2024.

Related Article

The green methanol is produced from renewable and circular feedstocks such as renewable natural gas from digesters, landfill, cellulosic biomass waste and is certified by the ISCC

The deployment of the retrofitted barge is a significant milestone towards the sustainable transformation of the shipping industry, as it will be able to run on renewable and low-carbon methanol fuel, as well as conventional biofuels.

The barge will also enable OCI to offer a full end-to-end bunker solution with the ability to transport and deliver its OCI HyFuels green methanol to ocean-going vessels.

The company expects that this will reduce GHG emissions during bunker delivery, allowing shipping companies using low-carbon fuels to include the “‘last mile” of the vessels’ journey in their footprint calculations.

By consuming green methanol, the barge has the potential to reduce the amount of particulate matter emitted in inland waterways by 90%, improving air quality and offering a better environment for local marine life.

The barge is expected to be deployed into inland waterways from the Port of Rotterdam in the second half of 2024.

“The project is part of our efforts to transition vessels across the board, including smaller crafts that operate on inland waterways which often pass through populous areas. We recognize the need to replace current marine fuels with cleaner alternatives such as green methanol, to reduce overall climate impact and improve local air quality,” Bashir Lebada, CEO of OCI Methanol, said.

“Methanol as a marine fuel has been established in the ocean going fleet for close to a decade, whereas the inland fleet is lagging. This innovative project demonstrates the viability of green methanol for the existing inland fleet, providing an option to extend the lifetime of existing assets while decarbonizing our inland waterways.”

“We are proud to be partnering with OCI and delivering the first methanol propelled barge to market, making it a new milestone in the transition  of the inland waterway industry. Not only will this project support the use of renewable and low carbon methanol, it will also provide a huge opportunity for existing barges to make a significant step by retrofitting existing engines, replacing gasoil with green methanol as the main fuel,” Alexander Wanders, COO of Unibarge, added.

“Clean fuels for shipping are vital to reach net-zero emissions and as Europe’s largest bunker port, Rotterdam plays a key role in this transition. Rotterdam was the first port in the world to offer barge-to-ship bunkering of methanol in 2021 and this dual-fueled bunkering barge will be another important milestone on the road to zero-emission shipping,” Nico van Dooren, Director New Business of the Port of Rotterdam, stated.

The retrofit project will be managed by Unibarge, who have selected the technology and equipment partners. OCI will take the barge on a long-term time charter and employ it in its regular trade, as well as using it to offer a full end-to-end bunker solution to larger vessels, delivering OCI Hyfuels green methanol.

Next to OCI’s efforts in decarbonizing the shipping industry with renewable methanol, OCI is also extending these efforts through its ammonia products.

In June 2022, OCI announced the Final Investment Decision for its ammonia import terminal expansion project in the Port of Rotterdam to triple throughput capacity to 1.2 million tons by 2023.

The terminal is strategically located to facilitate bunkering to ocean-going vessels, and to act as a hub for hydrogen imported in the form of ammonia to meet Europe’s expected future hydrogen deficit.