The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) has issued a report on methanol and ethanol, saying they are good potential alternatives for reducing both the emissions and carbon footprint of ship operations.
As they are sulphur-free, use of methanol and ethanol fuels would ensure compliance with the European Commission Sulphur Directive.
Investment costs for both methanol and ethanol retrofit and new build solutions are estimated to be in the same range as costs for installing exhaust gas after treatment (scrubber and selective catalytic reduction) for use with heavy fuel oil, and below the costs of investments for LNG solutions.
A payback time analysis carried out for the study indicated that methanol is competitive with other fuels and emissions compliance strategies, but this depends on fuel price differentials. Based on historic price differentials, methanol will have shorter payback times than both LNG and ethanol solutions for meeting sulphur emission control area requirements. However, with the current low oil prices at the end of 2015, the conventional fuel oil alternatives have shorter payback times.
The flashpoints of methanol and ethanol are both below the minimum flashpoint for marine fuels specified in SOLAS. This means that a risk assessment or evaluation must be carried out for each case demonstrating fire safety equivalent to conventional fuels for marine use.
Tests conducted on Stena Germanica and a chemical tanker owned by Waterfront Shipping have demonstrated that safety considerations are not a barrier to the use of methanol fuel systems on ships, says EMSA.
The report is available here.