Friday, February 27, 2015

Ro-Pax Ferry Will Become First Ship Powered by Methanol Next Month

Imposition of New Sulphur Emission Rules Drives Shipping Line to Seek an Alternative Fuel Source
Shipping News Feature

SWEDEN – POLAND – WORLDWIDE – There will be many interested onlookers amongst the ship owning community when the Stena Germanica returns to service next month after a six week conversion to enable her to operate on methanol. This will make the Ro-Pax vessel the first ferry in the world capable of using the liquid, produced in a catalytic industrial process directly from ingredients such as natural gas, coal, biomass, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.

The conversion of the Stena Germanica is being carried out in Gdansk, Poland, at the Remontova shipyard and, when completed, the vessel will effectively be dual fuel as she will retain the capability of using standard marine gas oil as a backup. Methanol would seem to be a good choice as a marine fuel provided supplies are available as particulates emitted are far less than with fuel oil and gas emissions are roughly the same as for Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) but are easier to process and do not place the same demands on infrastructure. That certainly seems to be the view of the EU which part funded the €22 million cost of the project through the ‘Motorways of the Sea’ initiative.

Conversion of the 240 metre long ferry is in collaboration with the engine manufacturer Wärtsilä, the ports of Gothenburg and Kiel (the ship’s normal ports of call) as well as the world's largest producer and supplier of methanol, the Methanex Corporation. Cutting sulphur emissions has become a matter of the utmost urgency for many European ferry companies since the introduction of Emission Control Areas on 1 January this year.

Wärtsilä, in collaboration with Stena Teknik, has developed the technology and the equipment to convert the engines whilst Stena Line has been working for ten years on reducing the group’s environmental impact by means of an energy-saving programme which has succeeded in reducing the energy consumption of its ships by an average of 2.5% per annum. Carl-Johan Hagman, CEO, Stena Line observed:

"The refurbishment at the shipyard is going well and we are proud to have the chance to lead this development in our industry. Our focus has always been on innovation that benefits both our customers and society in general, and being the first in the world to convert a ferry to run on methanol is a large step towards long-term sustainable transports. Implementation of the project has been possible thanks to the good cooperation between our technical personnel, Wärtsilä and Methanex."

A video of the Stena Line boss explaining the thinking behind the project can be seen here in which he talks of the search for a fuel for the future which has the potential to establish an environmental footprint for shipping entirely different to anything we have seen hitherto.