Methanol, an excellent alternative fuel for sustainable shipping

For several years, researchers of the Transport Technology group at Ghent University have collaborated with the engineers of ABC Engines to investigate alternative fuels for the maritime sector.

Based on important criteria such as sustainability, scalability and storability, methanol has been selected by the researchers as one of the main candidates to transform the maritime sector to sustainable shipping.

Methanol is a very simple molecule that can be made from renewable hydrogen and captured CO2. The fact that it is liquid at atmospheric conditions has big advantages for the needed infrastructure. The distribution, handling and bunkering systems are very similar to those used for the traditional marine fuels and less expensive compared to systems for gaseous fuels.

ABC Engines and the Transport Technology research group have been testing methanol as a fuel for several years in different internal combustion engine test setups. As the properties of methanol are favorable compared to the traditional fuels, engines running on methanol have a high efficiency, low NOx emissions and almost zero particulate matter emissions. Compared to some traditional marine fuels, it also doesn’t contain sulphur.

In the coming years, the collaboration will continue and several demo cases will be built such as a tug boat sailing on methanol in the port of Antwerp. This will be done in the FASTWATER project, a Horizon2020 project funded by the European Commission.