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A.P. Moller - Maersk orders 8 container ships powered by methanol dual-fuel engines

26 August 2021

A.P. Moller - Maersk ordered a series of 8 large ocean-going container vessels powered by methanol dual-fuel engines, with the intention to operate the ships on ‘carbon neutral’ methanol. The vessels will be built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI) and have a nominal capacity of 16,000 containers (Twenty Foot Equivalent - TEU). They will feature a methanol propulsion configuration developed in collaboration with MAN ES, Hyundai (Himsen), and Alfa Laval, which represents a significant scale-up of the technology from the previous size limit of around 2,000 TEU.

The ships will be powered by 8 × MAN B&W 8G95ME-LGIM (-Liquid Gas Injection Methanol) engines to be built by Hyundai Engine & Machinery Division, HHI-EMD. The first of the confirmed vessels is due to enter service in Q1 2024. The order contains an option for four additional vessels in 2025.

The additional capital expenditure (CAPEX) for the dual fuel capability, which enables operation on methanol as well as conventional low sulfur fuel, will be in the range of 10-15% of the total price, enabling Maersk to “take a significant leap forward in its commitment to scale carbon neutral solutions and lead the decarbonization of container logistics,” the company said.

The order signals that Maersk is considering methanol fuel as a viable option to meet the GHG emission reduction targets pursued by the shipping industry. The vessels will operate on ‘carbon neutral e-methanol’ or ‘sustainable bio-methanol’ as soon as possible, the company said. However, Maersk also recognized that sourcing an adequate amount of carbon neutral methanol from day one in service will be challenging, as it requires a significant production ramp up of proper carbon neutral methanol production.

Maersk identified REintegrate, a subsidiary of the Danish company European Energy, as its first supplier of carbon neutral methanol. REintegrate will establish a new power-to-methanol facility in Denmark that will use solar energy to produce hydrogen via water electrolysis. The e-methanol will be then synthesized from the H2 and from ‘biogenic’ CO2. Fuel production is expected to start in 2023.

The plant will produce 10,000 tonnes of carbon neutral e-methanol annually. This is approximately equivalent to the methanol consumption of the first Maersk vessel with the ability to burn methanol—the much smaller 2,100 TEU ship announced in February 2021.

The Maersk methanol propulsion project provides some initial insights into the post-oil economy powered by renewable energy. Apart from the extra CAPEX (of ~$150 million) for the 8 methanol-capable ships and from the low energy density of methanol relative to diesel (i.e., less cargo capacity), arguably the major challenge is the high cost of e-fuels. According to an analysis in CleanTechnica, conventional methanol fuel would cost about 4 times more for a ship journey than today’s HFO fuel. In case of a low carbon/green methanol, not yet commercially available, the estimated cost could be 12 times higher than the cost of HFO.

Expressed differently, HFO represents some 50-60% of the ship operating costs. Conventional methanol from natural gas would increase that figure to about 80%, while low carbon methanol—from natural gas with carbon capture, or power-to-methanol—could make it well over 90%, according to the analysis.

The new Maersk ships will be classed by the American Bureau of Shipping and sail under Danish flags.

Source: Maersk | MAN ES | CleanTechnica