Jeremy Crossman, General Manager, Sales Excellence & Coaching at Wärtsilä, moderated a lively discussion on how methanol and the new Wärtsilä 32 Methanol engine can help companies to reach their decarbonisation goals. Participants include Stefan Nysjö, Vice President, Power Supply, Wärtsilä; Chris Chatterton, Chief Operating Officer, Methanol Institute; Fredric Sunabacka, Product Manager for the Wärtsilä 32 and 34 engines, Wärtsilä; Alessandro Scocchi, Product Manager, Methanol Fuel Unit, Wärtsilä; Toni Stocjcevski, General Manager, Sales, Wärtsilä; and Job Voormolen, Innovation Manager, Sustainability at Van Oord.
The Wärtsilä 32 Methanol engine is part of Wärtsilä’s wider efforts to help decarbonise the maritime industry and develop future fuels. “For most vessels, the level of decarbonisation required to meet long-term regulatory targets will only be possible by using green fuels,” points out Nysjö. “At Wärtsilä, we believe in fuel flexibility and a gradual transition, so we have focused on fuel-agnostic products and solutions so that owners can choose the pathway that’s right for them.”
One fuel that has proved to be an important option in the energy transition is methanol. “It is already widely available and can be made carbon neutral in a variety of ways,” explains Nysjö. “It’s also simpler and safer to handle than many other future fuels. Wärtsilä has a great deal of experience of methanol and methanol fuel engines, giving us a clear head start on retrofitting and running engines on methanol. This experience has allowed us to apply methanol fuel technology to the widely used Wärtsilä 32 platform, putting it within reach of a wide range of vessels in different segments, from main engines on RoPax or offshore vessels to auxiliary engines in deep-sea merchant vessels. We have also introduced end-to-end capability in fulfilling and integrating methanol systems. We can help to turn methanol-fuel vessel concepts into reality with our combustion technologies, fuel systems, automation systems and safety features.”
There are many perceived obstacles to methanol fuel uptake in shipping, including availability, cost, technology, safety and lack of regulatory framework/policy. Chris Chatterton, Chief Operating Officer at Methanol Institute, highlights that most of these obstacles have already been addressed over the past six years: “Safety, technical readiness, economic viability, and availability have all been demonstrated. We found methanol to be quite safe, with a very high degree of technical readiness and it is widely available – you can find it in many ports worldwide. At the moment you could say it is fairly competitive compared to other alternative fuels – and even conventional fuels for that matter – from both an emissions perspective and an economic perspective. About 100 million tonnes of methane is produced annually and around 32 to 33 million tonnes traded internationally.”
“Policy makers have been very active in the past few years in identifying goals, which has been the key driver in our transition to these alternative fuels and decarbonisation in general,” observes Chatterton. “This has enabled the industry to move ahead with defining its own targets from both a producer and a consumer perspective.”
“Methanol is ideally placed to lower SOx and significantly reduce NOx and particulate matter, leading to the International Renewable Energy Association (IRENA) to forecast a large uptake in the production of bio methanol, moving later to more e-methanol,” Chatterton continues. “We're now looking at projections of over three million tonnes of forecasted production of both blue and green methanol by 2024. Methanol is fairly competitive on an energy content basis with conventional fuels, as well as LNG. We expect that with the scale up of low-carbon and carbon-neutral methanol we'll see prices begin to fall.”
The Wärtsilä 32 Methanol engine, available in Q2 2023 and based on proven Wärtsilä 32 engine technology, is a multifuel engine that can run on methanol, LFO, liquid bio fuels and HFO. It is suitable for use as a diesel-electric engine, an auxiliary engine and a variable-speed main engine, both for CPP and FMP propulsion. The relevant vessel segments cover everything from offshore support vessels, ferries, fishing vessels, dredgers, merchant ships, icebreakers, navy vessels and oil and drilling rigs, giving owners of these vessels the power to reach carbon neutral.
“Methanol significantly reduces emissions compared to LFO,” explains Fredric Sunabacka, Product Manager for Wärtsilä 32 and 34 engines. “The Wärtsilä 32 Methanol engine provides a 92% reduction in CO2 with green methanol and a 50% reduction in NOx from the IMO Tier II level. There is also no SOx or particulate matter from methanol combustion. It is a reliable engine with a high power-to-weight ratio, and it is fuel flexible with a low fuel oil consumption across the load range. Last but not least, the Wärtsilä 32 Methanol is fully supported by Wärtsilä’s global service network.”
Methanol is delivered to the engine with a methanol fuel system, designed by Wärtsilä. “The sealing and control oil pump unit is one of the key engine auxiliaries, allowing treatment of the lubrication oil from the engine lube oil system and delivering the two different streams of oil that the engine needs to properly function,” explains Alessandro Scocchi, Product Manager, Methanol Fuel Unit, Wärtsilä. “We also have the methanol fuel supply system, made up of the methanol fuel pump unit, the methanol fuel valve train and the methanol low-pressure pump skid, which treat the methanol from the tank up to the engine and prepare it to be used in the engine itself.”
“The sealing and control oil pump unit is an enclosed unit that consists of two pumps and delivers two different streams of oil: the control oil that performs the control functions of the engine and the sealing oil that performs a sealing function in the injector nozzle so that any methanol leak can’t spread into the engine room,” Scocchi continues. “This is just one safety feature; another is a cooler that ensures the methanol is never too hot and a series of valves on the supply line that ensure no methanol can flow downstream in an emergency shutdown or during maintenance.”
Many existing vessels will require recertification; it’s not a question of if it will be needed, it’s a question of what should be done and how. Carbon intensity needs to be lowered by 40% by 2030 compared to 2008 levels and total greenhouse gas emissions need be reduced by 50% by 2050. Retrofitting existing vessels to run on methanol is one way to achieve these goals.
“When looking at how to meet these tightening regulations the focus is on the existing fleet, but for those building new ships it is important to invest in an asset that can be upgraded throughout the vessel lifecycle, which is around 30 years,” points out Toni Stocjcevski, General Manager, Sales, Wärtsilä. “In 10–15 years we need to start building zero-carbon ships, but that technology is not yet available, so for now we need to build ships with future fuel-ready assets.”
“If you have an existing ship, you can start by installing energy saving devices, but the best way to lower CO2 emissions is to convert to alternative fuels like methanol,” explains Stocjcevski. “Wärtsilä can partner with ship owners from the early concept to the final delivery. Our methanol conversion retrofits existing engines; this is not seen as a major conversion, there is no reduction in efficiency or output when running on methanol and load response remains the same as with diesel. It is a robust system with proven technology, and it is the result of over 60,000 engineering hours invested in development and over six years of operational experience.”
Job Voormolen, Innovation Manager, Sustainability at Van Oord is a new-build customer of the Wärtsilä 32 methanol system. The scope of delivery included five Wärtsilä 32 Methanol main gensets, SCRs, MethanolPac and retractable and tunnel thrusters, all to be delivered in Q2 2023.
All of Van Oord’s jack-up vessels work exclusively for the offshore wind industry, which is experiencing rapid growth and has quickly become a key market for the company. “This led to us investing in a new jack-up vessel last year,” shares Voormolen. “Operating in renewable energy markets raises the question of which fuel to use, which must last until at least 2050. To help us make that decision we have a clear corporate strategy with a clear sustainable roadmap to net zero emissions for our fleet by 2050. To progress in an affordable and realistic manner we have two focal points for our roadmap for new builds: energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy.”
Van Oord has actively participated in the Green Maritime Methanol consortium since 2019. “One workstream in the consortium was to look at converting existing vessels to methanol, which gave excellent insight into which vessels would be most suitable,” says Voormolen. “In light of this we realised that using methanol for this type of jack-up vessel is ideal, so we decided to become an early adopter of methanol fuel.”
“With the knowledge we had gained in the consortium we were well aware of the head start and practical experience that Wärtsilä had with methanol installations, so we decided to really push for a full methanol vessel including sea trials from the start,” Voormolen continues. “We started a period of intense engineering and technical discussions with Wärtsilä. After that we were able to quickly put together a technical specification for a full methanol system.”
To find out more about transitioning to methanol and the Wärtsilä 32 Methanol engine, watch the webinar in full