Alfa Laval Receives First Marine Approval for Methanol-Fueled Boilers

first marine approval for methanol fueled boilers
Testing took place at Alfa Laval's facility in Denmark (Alfa Laval)

Published Dec 7, 2021 2:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

The development of methanol as a fuel for maritime operations took another step forward with the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) granting the first marine approval for operating boilers on methanol. 

Alfa Laval received an approval in principle (AiP) based on extensive solution testing that was underway since early in 2021 focusing on generating comparable energy outputs to conventional fuels. The Swedish engine manufacturer is now planning a pilot installation on an ocean-going vessel to complete the development and commercialization of the application.

“Alfa Laval is looking at the full scope of methanol’s influence on board,” says Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Vice President Technology Development, Energy Systems, Alfa Laval Marine Division. “The most natural choice for boilers is to fire them with the vessel’s primary fuel, but methanol’s low-flashpoint nature and the differences in its energy density require a new approach to the burner and fuel supply systems. It was important for us to develop that approach, and we are proud to have it validated by ABS.”

Currently, methanol as a fuel has only been adopted on a handful of vessels and only with the main engines.  However, because it is liquid at ambient temperatures and if produced from green sources can be carbon neutral, it is drawing wide attention within the maritime industry. However, according to Alfa Laval, to become a total solution it must be extended to broader applications including the boilers on a ship.

Initial results from Alfa Laval’s tests, obtained with both pure methanol and a methanol-water mixture, showed as expected that methanol is easy to ignite and results in very low emissions. The focus of the program was placed on securing the same steam output with methanol, despite its lower heat value, as would be the case using oil or gas as fuel. After a few adaptations, Alfa Laval reports it achieved a solution that ensures that a boiler of a given size can produce the same amount of steam regardless of which fuel is used. 

“Moving to methanol will require many changes on board, especially when it comes to energy management,” says Jørgensen. The company is working on solutions that will help vessels fulfill their energy needs while minimizing the amount of methanol consumed. Alfa Laval is also pursuing wider optimization possibilities that will compensate for methanol’s lower energy density and higher price.