Pacific Basin opts for green methanol as the best fuel for its newbuilds

Hong Kong-based dry bulk shipping company Pacific Basin has selected green methanol as the best fuel for its first generation of zero-emission vessels.

The decision is based on the findings of a feasibility study the company conducted in cooperation with Nihon Shipyard Co. and Mitsui & Co. The study looked into the various potential green fuels covering fuel characteristics, availability, and scalability, technical pros and cons, lifetime operating and capital costs.

The trio signed a Memorandum of Understanding in May 2022 to cooperate in the investigation and development of zero-emission vessels. The partners said that they would also explore the investment in related bunkering infrastructure.

The Hong Kong-based dry bulk shipping company was struggling with the decision on which type of fuel to choose for its future ships for quite a while. Speaking in August in an earnings call on the potential pathway for the company Martin Fruergaard, CEO of Pacific Basin said:

“If we knew exactly what to order we would order as soon as possible.” 

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Our agenda, together with our partners is to make sure we know what we are doing and, as soon as we have some certainty on availability of fuels and how to design the ship safely, our ambition is, of course, to order such ships,” he said at the time.

“We at Pacific Basin know that we have to decarbonize. The ambition is not to be the first but to be able to do it right and safely.”

Now that the study is over the company will move forward with the design of the vessel which is likely to take a few years before the company proceeds with ordering the ships.

‘‘Drawing on the collective expertise of our partners, we are confident that methanol is currently the most suitable future fuel for Handysize and Supramax bulk carriers, and we believe the infrastructure to produce and distribute green methanol is coming,” Fruergaard said.

“We are now embarking on the next stage of our decarbonisation project, which is to develop a highly efficient ship design around which we plan to contract our first generation of dual-fuel zero-emission newbuildings, again in collaboration with our Japanese partners. We want to be at the forefront of our segment’s transition to zero-emission vessels which should enable us to meet our target of zero emissions by 2050. Through our example, we hope to help accelerate the transition and make zero-emission vessels the default choice in the dry bulk sector by 2030.’’

‘‘Contributing to minor bulk shipping’s transition to a green future is one of the most exciting transformation activities we are currently involved in. We are pleased to select methanol as the preferred fuel, utilising our wide range of portfolios as a global trading and investment company to provide knowledge into the alternative fuel supply chain,” Mr. Okamoto, COO of Mobility Business Unit II, Mitsui & Co.

Pacific Basin believes that biofuels will also feature in the industry’s fuel mix, and that ammonia will become an important marine fuel in some sectors once technical and safety challenges are adequately addressed.

To remind, Pacific Basin completed its first biofuel trial on its handy bulker Ince Point, in September 2022.

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Methanol generates fewer NOx emissions and no SOx or soot emissions during combustion. It is much easier to handle compared to gaseous fuels and it is less hazardous for aquatic organisms compared to marine gas oil or heavy fuel oil. 

The number of methanol-powered vessels has doubled over the past year, with container shipping companies, Maersk and CMA CGM at the forefront of the ordering tally.

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