An initiative being undertaken by Sweden’s Liquid Wind and its partners is set to result in the construction a series of electro-fuel facilities, each capable of producing 50,000tonnes of eMethanol yearly.
eMethanol is also referred to as ‘green’ methanol because of the way in which it is produced: combining biogenic CO2 (put simply, CO2 created by burning biologically based materials, such as biomass) with hydrogen, created by water electrolysis. This is in contrast to the more common ‘grey’ methanol derived from fossil fuels.
“Methanol is not new to the marine sector: it is still a niche product, but interest is growing,” explains Claes Fredriksson, Liquid Wind CEO. “The earliest maritime adopters tend to be those vessels that carry methanol, much in the same way that LNG carriers were the first ships to trial LNG as a fuel.” What’s particularly attractive about liquid methanol is that it can be applied to existing diesel engines, removing the need for expensive overhauls. Also, the fuel’s safety-related issues are generally understood by the industry and documented in the IGF Code. One of the most attractive benefits is that eMethanol could cut carbon emissions by 94% compared to current fossil fuels.
In some cases, methanol can also be mixed with other fuels. “Diesel is not the best mix: we’d suggest using diesel as a pilot fuel, with methanol comprising 90-95% of the blend,” Fredriksson says. “However, you have fewer restrictions with a methanol-gasoline blend, and can operate with a content of M20 or M40, the numbers corresponding to the percentage of methanol in the fuel.”
In terms of operational performance, there is no difference between ‘green’ and ‘grey’ methanol: the former type has simply been produced using renewable sources, to offer carbon-neutral fuel. The method for generating the electricity would depend on location, with facilities in North Europe more likely to use wind turbines to do so, while those based in Australia, South Europe and the Middle East would probably opt for solar panels, Fredriksson suggests.
Liquid Wind intends to contract its first eMethanol production site in Q1 2022 and to build the facility within 18-24 months. The debut facility is planned for Örnsköldsvik, on Sweden’s east coast – a regular calling point for various coastal cargo carriers in the 5,000-8,000tonne range – and will span some 12,000m2.
“The actual footprint for each facility will be similar, give or take a little space,” says Fredriksson. This will depend on whether existing sites already have essential technology (including flares, pressurised air systems and electrical connectors) in place, with which the Liquid Wind facility can integrate, or whether they have to be installed. Fortunately, he reveals, most of the pulp mills that make suitable hosts for Liquid Wind’s production facilities tend to be situated close to ports, thereby reducing the need for long road trips to deliver the eMethanol to the vessel.
The aim is to have 500 facilities established globally by 2050, a task that will necessitate the forging of further international partnerships. Currently, Liquid Wind is working alongside Carbon Clean, Siemens Energy and Haldor Topsøe, as well as Alfa Laval, all of whom have invested in the company.