Houlder designs a 10,000 cubic meter methanol bunkering vessel

Written by Nick Blenkey
methanol bunkering vessel

Image: Houlder

London-headquartered design and engineering consultancy Houlder has unveiled a design for a 10,000-cubic-meter methanol bunkering vessel.

The methanol bunkering vessel design includes semi-automated crane systems for supplying methanol to other ships of a wide size range, including cruise and large container vessels.

Houlder says the design marks a key milestone in the development of methanol infrastructure and is a strategic step towards wider alternative fuel bunkering.

The design is part of the firm’s involvement in the SPINE project, which is supported by MarRI-UK and brings together a consortium of organizations, led by MSE International. Focusing on energy and autonomy in the maritime industry, the project aims to establish an interface between ships, remote control centers, port operating systems, and national energy infrastructure to address challenges in maritime decarbonization and autonomy.

“Entering the SPINE project, Houlder aimed to expand its influence in the research and development activities around alternative fuels,” said Arun Pillai, project director at Houlder. “Completion of this design project involved detailed analyses to ensure compliance with stringent regulations governing methanol as both fuel and cargo, reaffirming Houlder’s expertise in this area.”

methanol  bunkering vessel
Image: Houlder

The use of methanol as both cargo and fuel for the bunkering vessel itself presented unique spatial considerations, given methanol’s lower density compared to conventional fuels, the different regulatory requirements concerning storage and use as cargo or fuel, and associated handling spaces. Houlder’s design team explored the allocation of space within the hull to balance these requirements within a vessel that is of comparable size to existing small tankers, while adhering to strict safety regulations.

The placement options for propulsion fuel tanks and other critical spaces were thoroughly reviewed to ensure operational effectiveness without compromising safety, performance and vessel size. Electric powertrain architecture was also incorporated, allowing for future upgrades to fuel cell technology, and providing environmental benefits with respect to reduced noise.

Houlder says that its meticulous approach underscores the firm’s commitment to overcoming spatial challenges inherent in adopting alternative fuels within the maritime industry, while retaining a ready flexibility for evolution that provides an owner with reassurance against the perceived and actual uncertainty of some alternative fuel technology development.

To optimize the methanol bunkering vessel’s efficiency, the Houlder team utilized digital twin technology to create a virtual world. This can be leveraged to analyze adjustments to existing ship operations, to design brand new vessels, or to outline various ways to save fuel and cut associated GHG emissions on specific voyages or across all operations. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) were deployed as part of the process to consider various solutions such as twin propeller configurations and bulbous bow designs. The impact of a minimal ballast philosophy on the design was also assessed – the propeller size and subsequent propulsive power requirements, for example. These tools allowed Houlder to analyze the trade-off between propeller size and number against fuel efficiency in both full load and ballast conditions across a range of different operating profiles. As a result, numerous design variants exist, ready to be optimally balanced for OPEX and CAPEX for particular operating routes, and taking owner preferences into account.

Houlder says that the project’s success positions it as a technology-agnostic consultancy capable of overcoming design challenges posed by emerging alternative fuels.

“We are pleased with the outcome of this concept design project, and Houlder looks forward to engaging with additional stakeholders interested in advancing methanol bunkering and exploring further opportunities in alternative fuel and efficient vessel design,” Arun concluded.

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