First barge-to-ship methanol bunkering

Written by Nick Blenkey
Barge in front of methanol carrier

TankMatch bunker barge alongside Takaroa Sun [Image: Port of Rotterdam]

Advocates of methanol as a marine fuel argue that it offers much the same advantages as LNG, but with fewer complications.

Helping to underscore this, the world’s first barge-to-ship bunkering of methanol as a marine fuel took place in Rotterdam this week, using a conventional bunker barge.

The ship that was bunkered was the Takaroa Sun. Delivered in 2019 to NYK Bulkship (Asia) Pte. Ltd, it is a a 49,000 dwt methanol-fueled methanol carrier, on long term charter to Methanex, the world’s largest producer and supplier of methanol.

The operation took place at the Vopak Terminal Botlek of Royal Vopak using a conventional bunker barge, operated by TankMatch. The Port of Rotterdam is the largest seaport in Europe with approximately 30,000 visiting seagoing vessels and 100,000 inland vessels per year.

“Waterfront Shipping has been operating methanol-fuelled ships for over five years now, accumulating over 100,000 combined operating hours—and has been bunkering methanol for its methanol dual-fueled vessels via cargo shore pipelines near Methanex’s production facilities,” said Paul Hexter, President of Waterfront Shipping. “When appropriate safety measures are followed, we know that methanol is safe to ship, store, handle and bunker using procedures similar to conventional fuels. Today’s methanol bunkering demonstration is another step in helping the shipping industry with its journey to reduce emissions.”

According to Methanex, the bunkering demonstration provided further evidence that methanol is “a low emission, safe and simple to handle clean fuel that offers a future-proof pathway to a low-carbon future.”

Liquid at ambient temperature and miscible in water, methanol produces up to 15% lower carbon emissions during combustion than traditional fuel oil and is MARPOL Annex VI compliant for SOx emissions, particulate matter and Tier III NOx emissions.

“The Port of Rotterdam fully supports initiatives to reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions and promotes sustainability for ships calling here and in other ports,” said Allard Castelein, CEO Port of Rotterdam Authority. “Methanol has proven itself able to meet our very stringent safety standards and can play an important role in meeting the lower emission goals.”

“As shipowners begin to engage in the energy transition, the Vopak terminals have the capabilities and experience to also work with operators of methanol-fueled vessels and meet their specific requirements,” said Dick Richelle, Commercial Director of Royal Vopak. “Methanol is globally available and has similar storage needs to conventional fuels. Thisdemonstration proves that methanol bunkering is a safe and realistic option as a clean-burning fuel with a sustainable pathway.”

“We are increasingly hearing from vessel operators who want to understand their options for lowering their emissions and want a simple path to IMO compliance,” says Andre Nieman, CEO of TankMatch. “Bunkering with methanol requires a similar level of risk assessment and safety management as other conventional bunker fuels and we found this process simple to manage and execute.”

Methanex says it is committed to demonstrating ongoing leadership in the use of lower-emission methanol as a marine fuel. Waterfront Shipping recently ordered an additional eight methanol-fulled vessels to be delivered between 2021 and 2023—with this latest order, approximately 60% of its 30-ship fleet will be powered by lower emission, methanol dual-fuel technology.

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