Methanol and Biofuels Engine Testing Supports Fuel Transition

testing methanol and biofuels for marine use
Alfa Laval's testing facility in Denmark

Published Mar 8, 2021 4:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

Testing is getting underway to explore the use of biofuels and methanol on the currently available marine propulsion technologies. Alfa Laval, a manufacturer of pumps, filters, oil separators, and other equipment used in ship’s engine rooms, is looking to facilitate the transition towards sustainable shipping through the use of the fuels and systems available today.

“A number of fuel pathways are on the table in the transition towards zero-carbon shipping but the knowledge about their impact on marine equipment solutions is limited. We want to extend that knowledge through testing,” says Sameer Kalra, President of the Marine Division. “It is our ambition to develop viable technology solutions in cooperation with other marine players so that our customers can achieve their climate goals irrespective of the selected fuel pathway.”

To achieve the long-term target of decarbonization, the industry must shift to new fuel types and technologies the company notes. With ships having a lifetime of 20 years or more, the vessels being built in the next decade will influence the ability of the industry to meet the 2050 goals calling for reductions in emissions.

Eastern Pacific Shipping in its announcement last week that it was beginning the process to use methanol for its existing ships also sounded the note of urgency. They say that the industry needed to move forward with the available technologies and systems while also preparing for other solutions such as ammonia to emerge in the mid-term.

Alfa Laval notes that the pace of development of the new fuels is accelerating, with the first carbon-neutral liner predicted to launch in 2023 and methanol-fueled vessel will be ready for delivery in two years’ time. They note that while methanol enables the lowest greenhouse impact of any available liquid fuel, biofuel is more of a challenge as it is produced from many different sources and therefore needs thorough testing to secure safe operation. Currently, the ships testing biofuels have had to make adaptions to their systems while the systems under development for methanol currently require the use of pilot fuels.

The Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre in Aalborg, Denmark is taking a key role in testing new types of fuels to adapt and develop equipment for the vessels’ engine rooms. The 2800 m2 testing space – already equipped for today’s oil and gas fuels – has been readied for testing biofuels and methanol. The tests will begin during the spring.