Green Meth: network for the use of methanol as a renewable energy source
Compliance with the ambitious climate targets formulated in the Paris Agreement also requires a transition from fossil fuels to fuels that are as carbon-neutral as possible in the shipping industry. In addition, far stricter exhaust gas limits will soon apply to other harmful emissions, such as sulphur oxides and particulate matter. The ZIM innovation network Green Meth, initiated by the Maritime Cluster Northern Germany (MCN) and supported by the consulting company embeteco, is concerned with the development and market launch of methanol-based propulsion solutions for small ships.
The field of alternative, more environmentally friendly fuels is one of the focal points of the Maritime Cluster Northern Germany. In Lower Saxony, the MCN office has been working on the topic of methanol for more than two years. Among other things, MCN organised workshops in which Scandinavian experts such as Stena Line reported on their experiences in ship operation with methanol. In order to provide the maritime industry with an up-to-date and secure database, MCN published the potential analysis Methanol als emissionsneutraler Energieträger für die Schifffahrt (methanol as an emission-neutral energy source for shipping) in October 2018.
The results of the study prompted ten companies and six universities and research institutions to join forces in a funded innovation network coordinated by MCN. The application for a ZIM project entitled “Green Meth - Network for the Use of Methanol as a Renewable Energy Source in Maritime Applications”, which was prepared jointly with MCN, was submitted in April 2019 by the Oldenburg-based MCN member embeteco. The approval of the innovation network was granted retroactively as of June 1, 2019. The ZIM network is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy based on a resolution of the German Bundestag.
“It is great that MCN can contribute to a more sustainable shipping industry through its commitment to future-oriented projects in ship propulsion and that it is positioning itself as one of the pioneers in this field,” says Dr. Susanne Neumann, head of the MCN office in Lower Saxony.
There are no alternative propulsion concepts for smaller ship units on the market
The efforts of the network partners to develop projects are now gathering momentum with the aim of introducing and establishing methanol on the market in the long term as an alternative to other concepts such as LNG, hydrogen or GTL diesel. Methanol propulsion systems should enable ship owners to comply with current and future emission limits. Their benefits include an easier conversion of ships, no energy losses through storage and transfer, low logistics costs and pre-existing or easily created infrastructures. The stagnation experienced with the introduction of alternative fuels, for example due to an inadequate bunker infrastructure and high regulatory hurdles, should thus be resolved - on the way towards a more sustainable and cleaner shipping industry.
The operational goal of the network is to use research and development projects to create innovative products that allow methanol to be used safely and reliably as an alternative fuel on smaller ships. In the future, they could be used on working ships and boats such as sounding ships and smaller dredgers, tugboats, offshore vehicles such as crew transfer vessels or guard vessels, ferries, island supply vessels and coasters. The conversion of small ships to gas propulsion is technically and economically difficult due to the complex storage of cryogenic, liquefied natural gas in spatially confined ship structures and because of the “rigid” tank geometry (mostly double cylinders). It is therefore advisable to use other fuels with comparable or better environmental properties for these ships. Filling this gap with suitable technologies is the aim of the network partners.
“Due to the growing interest of the shipping industry in propulsion solutions for smaller ship units, small and medium-sized companies are increasingly interested in participating in projects on methanol as a fuel for shipping. Participation in a ZIM network offers very good opportunities in this regard,” says Henning Edlerherr, project manager at the Maritime Cluster Northern Germany.
Industry and research collaborate to find solutions
Small and medium-sized enterprises, amongst others, cooperate closely in the ZIM network Green Meth. Besides the MCN members FriTec, IB-HAWE and Scan Diesel, the companies Anleg, EMDION, OPTOLUTION Messtechnik and engineering firm Beck are part of the project.
As future users of the technologies that are to be developed, the MCN member companies EMS Maritime Offshore and Niedersachsen Ports are also on board, the state-owned port infrastructure company operates its own fleet of working vehicles.
The research institutes BIBA – Bremer Institut für Produktion und Logistik, DLR Institute of Networked Energy Systems, Hochschule Wismar, Jade University of Applied Sciences, and Northern Business School also contribute their expertise to the network.
The network is supported by the consulting company embeteco. Together with network partners, the MCN member company will develop innovative projects, acquire funding and support the handling of funded projects.
As an associated network member, the Maritime Cluster Northern Germany will continue to accompany the project, bring in other technology partners from the network and promote the topic of methanol as an alternative fuel.
The future of regeneratively produced methanol
Methanol can be produced synthetically from water and carbon compounds using energy. In addition, production from synthesis gases, which can be produced in a relatively environmentally friendly manner from a wide variety of waste materials, is easily possible from a technological point of view. This is an opportunity to support the decentralised production of “green” marine fuels in other projects.