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Methanol-powered Vessels Rising over LNG-powered Vessels in Carbon Neutrality

The world’s largest shipping company Maersk has set the goal of moving up the year of reaching its carbon neutrality from 2050 to 2040 by one decade. The shipping giant chose methanol instead of LNG as a solution to realizing carbon neutrality. Since ordering a methanol-powered vessel from HD HHI in 2021, Maersk has ordered a total of 19 vessels.

LNG’s days as a carbon-neutral vessel fuel are numbered, and methanol time has replaced LNG. Orders for methanol-powered ships have continued to grow as environmental regulations on ships have been tightened.

Insiders of the Korean shipbuilding industry estimate that six out of 10 new shipbuilding orders in the first half of this year will be those for methanol-powered ships. Until last year, LNG carriers have dominated orders, but things have turned this year. According to British shipping research firm Clarkson Research, 93 percent of the container ships ordered in January and February will use methanol as their fuel.

The biggest advantage of methanol is that it exists as a liquid at room temperature, making methanol easier to handle than LNG, which must be liquefied at cryogenic temperatures. Methanol-powered vessels do not require cold storage tanks and processing facilities required for LNG-powered vessels. Methanol is biodegradable in the event of a spill, making it relatively free from marine pollution concerns. No nitrogen oxides or sulfur is found in methanol so it is not subject to environmental regulations. Methanol-only engines have already been commercialized.

However, even methanol-powered ships have limitations. Methanol is less energy dense than bunker fuel or LNG, so more is needed to produce the same power. Experts point out that installing large fuel tanks can decrease space on a ship, making methanol unsuitable for other than container ships.

In particular, so far, methanol-powered container ships are more sought-after than LNG-powered container ships as container ships sail regularly in general. This is because it is important to have a carbon-neutral fuel because of the regularity of their routes. However, experts predict that larger ships such as bulk carriers will respond quickly to this trend.

The larger a ship is the more CO2 it emits. Shipping companies have to be proactive in responding to international carbon neutrality regulations.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) will hold the 80th meeting of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in July to discuss a revised proposal to raise its international shipping greenhouse gas reduction bar. It is expected that the amendment will further raise the 2050 reduction target from 50 percent to 100 percent.
Source: Business Korea

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