A containership that first made the headlines when its main engines were converted to dual-fuel operation is in the news again. In a world-first for the maritime sector, the ship, the ElbBLUE bunkered some 20 tons of green SNG (synthetic natural gas) at the Elbe port in Brunsbüttel, Germany. The liquefied SNG was produced in a power-to-gas facility in Werlte, Germany, owned by kiwi AG. It was generated using 100% renewable energy, one of a number of Power-to-X electricity conversion, energy storage, and reconversion pathways that make use of surplus electric power, typically during periods where fluctuating, renewable-energy generation exceeds load
The ElbBLUE is the former Wes Amelie. In 2017 its MAN 8L48/60B main engine was retrofitted to its current, four-stroke MAN 51/60DF unit to enable dual-fuel operation. The first such conversion of its type globally, it showed that existing engines could be converted to LNG operation.
Owned by German shipowner Elbdeich Reederei and operated by charterer Unifeeder, the 1,036 TEU feeder containership operates on the North Sea and the Baltic.
At a ceremony held to mark the historic SNG bunkering, MAN Energy Solutions chief sales officer, Wayne Jones OBE, praised the leading roles played by the various partners involved in the project—including Unifeeder, Liquind and Wessels Marine—and commended them on their determination to drive green shipping.
“This is an important lighthouse project, essentially a proof of concept for the maritime energy transition,” said Jones. “At MAN Energy Solutions, we strongly believe in the synthetic-fuels roadmap but joint efforts across the industry are needed to make it happen. The fact is that the respective governments need to establish a framework to make synthetic fuels readily available, while power-to-X needs to be developed on an industrial scale in order to bring down costs and make truly sustainable fuels a reality.”
“This is a crucial step on the road to decarbonizing shipping and, in Elbdeich, we have the perfect partner,” said Stefan Eefting, senior vice president and head of MAN PrimeServ, Augsburg. “In reducing or even eliminating future emissions generated by the global supply-chain, synthetic fuels and engine retrofits have a crucial role to play. While a retrofit instantly reduces a ship’s emission-levels, synthetic fuels like SNG can enable it to run 100% climate-neutrally. Today, we are demonstrating that any LNG-retrofitted ship can also run on fuels generated by power-to-X technology, and even as a mix of fuels depending on availability.”
The ElbBLUE is now set to continue its journey under the supervision of engineers from MAN PrimeServ, MAN Energy Solutions’ after-sales division. As a result, the vessel’s direct CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 56 tons for this coming trip.
“Elbdeich’s philosophy is that the key to a successful shipping company is its ability to detect emerging, economic developments and trends – and to react flexibly by taking the appropriate measures,” said Jens Moje, managing director of Elbdeich. “We view decarbonization of the shipping industry as inevitable—and very welcome—and are delighted to play a pioneering role in its advancement.”
Timm Niebergall, Shortsea Director, Unifeeder, said: “This is a great technology showcase and we are excited to be part of this. From the perspective of a charterer and as a leading operator of feeder and shortsea services in Europe and around the globe, we think that the future availability of green(er) fuels will be essential. Our customers in Europe and beyond are expecting innovative solutions for improving our, and thereby also their, carbon footprint – green SNG is an interesting product and we are therefore very proud to be the first feeder and shortsea operator testing this new fuel on one of our vessels.”
Hermann Pengg-Buehrlen, CEO of kiwi AG, said: “Our e-gas facility was the world’s first multi-megawatt installation to generate synthetic natural gas from CO2 and renewable electricity. The liquefaction unit taken into operation in 2021 was especially designed for the liquefaction of SNG. We are very proud to deliver the world´s first SNG in the shipping industry to MAN and Elbdeich.”