Six firms join forces to build Japan’s 1st methanol-fueled tanker

Six Japanese companies have decided to form a strategic alliance aimed at reducing environmental impact through the development of the country’s first methanol-fueled tanker.

Illustration. Taranaki Sun methanol dual-fueled methanol carrier. Photo: Waterfront Shipping/MOL

The alliance partners are shipping company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines (MOL), marine transport services company MOL Coastal Shipping, ocean shipping services firm Tabuchi Kaiun, marine transport services provider Niihama Kaiun, shipbuilder and ship repair services provider Murakami Hide Shipbuilding, and ship engine manufacturer The Hanshin Diesel Works.

As informed, the newbuild is planned for delivery in 2024.

The vessel development project was selected to receive public funding through the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT).

Specifically, the funding subsidizes the costs required to conduct the demonstration project with the aim of optimizing overall transport by introducing measures on software aspects such as ship operation planning and optimization of cargo handling operations, as well as hardware-based steps such as energy-saving ship designs, high-efficiency propulsion systems, and systems and equipment to enhance cargo-handling operations.

Methanol can reduce emissions of sulfur oxide (SOx) by up to 99%, particulate matter (PM) by up to 95%, nitrogen oxide (NOx) by up to 80%, and carbon dioxide (CO2) by up to 15%, compared to vessels using conventional fuel oil, which is currently the main fuel for marine vessels. Methanol has outstanding properties for use as a fuel, as it is liquid at normal temperatures and normal air pressure.

Methanol fuel has been more widely introduced on ocean-going vessels as an environmentally friendly fuel, including four MOL-operated ships, but this will be the first methanol-fueled domestic ship, according to the companies.

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In addition, methanol can be produced with CO2 and hydrogen as raw material, so in the future, it can be produced by utilizing the CO2 capture and transport business to synthesize hydrogen, which uses electricity derived from renewable resources such as offshore wind power and wave power. If this methanol can be used as fuel, it can establish an environmental circulation type business model, enabling a reduction in net CO2 emissions, the companies explained.

The six alliance partners will each orchestrate their advantages in technology, expertise, and networks aiming to realize a decarbonized society.

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