With methanol gaining growing attention as the likely next step in the transition to zero-emission fuels, Alfa Laval is rapidly developing the technologies needed to take that step. As a low-flashpoint fuel, methanol poses significant challenges that require a new approach to fuel supply. Having been a leader in fuel line solutions for traditional fuels, Alfa Laval has also been at the forefront with methanol, partnering with MAN Energy Solutions to develop a low- flashpoint supply system (LFSS) for ME-LGIM two-stroke engines.
The Alfa Laval FCM (fuel conditioning module) for methanol has now reached more than 100,000 hours of operation, and the solution has been further developed to meet the additional requirements of methanol-fueled four-stroke engines and Alfa Laval Aalborg boilers.
“Shipowners will save space and energy by using the same LFSS for the main engine, auxiliary engines and boilers fired with methanol,” says Roberto Comelli, Business Manager Fuel Conditioning Systems. “We can engineer one FCM Methanol system to handle the process parameters of multiple methane consumers, with automation that meets all their different needs.”
“When it comes to Aalborg boilers, which are prepared to work with methanol through our MultiFlame burner concept, the FCM Methanol ensures the correct fuel parameters,” says Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Head of Technology Development, Energy Solutions. “What remains is to fine-tune methanol combustion for maximum boiler efficiency, which is work that’s already in progress in full-scale testing at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center.”
SWITCHING TO METHANOL IMPACTS THE ENERGY BALANCE
Handling and combusting methanol, however, will be only one side of the methanol equation. Because methanol contains less energy than traditional fuels, it will also be necessary to rethink energy use on methanol-fueled vessels. Alfa Laval and partners are developing high-temperature proton exchange membrane (HTPEM) full cells to supplement energy production, but a new approach to existing energy sources will also be needed.
“Waste heat recovery, which is usually overlooked on today’s vessels, will be a key component of tomorrow’s methanol operations,” says Jørgensen. “There will be less demand for steam on board, but the heat energy will need to be applied in other ways. Due to methanol’s lower energy content and higher price, shipowners will want to turn every bit of the energy released into either mechanical or electrical power.”
Alfa Laval is addressing this wider energy picture with existing as well as new solutions. The Alfa Laval Aalborg Micro, for example, is already a well-established exhaust gas boiler. Connected to a fired boiler, it will add steam to a shared steam drum, thereby reducing methanol consumption by the burner. But it will also be possible to combine with a plate heat exchanger and the Alfa Laval E-PowerPack, a new solution based on the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC).
“ORC technology can generate electricity from any heat source on board, however small,” says Jørgensen. “By using the Aalborg Micro to produce hot water, rather than steam, shipowners will have a medium that’s easily converted into additional power. Along with the fuel cells in development, ORC technology will help vessels maintain their energy balance after switching to methanol.”