Methanol seeking standard for bunkers use Move to get a standard aims to foster wider adoption as a maritime fuel.

July 11, 2018

July 11th, 2018 21:04 GMT
by Michael Angell
Published in TANKERS

Methanol as a marine fuel got a leg up as the International Maritime Organization (IMO) asks for a standard to be developed for methanol bunkers.

The IMO has asked that the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) to develop guidelines to assure owners and operators that a uniform type of methanol will be available at ports.

Gregory Dolan, president of advocacy group Methanol Institute, says developing a standard is “an important step for methanol to find wider adoption as a marine fuel.”

“It provides certainty to shippers and terminal operators about using methanol,” Dolan said.

The IMO’s move to push for a methanol standard comes out of work done by the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee on amending guidelines for low flashpoint fuels, which include methanol and liquefied natural gas.

The IMO already has standards for methanol as a cargo, but not as a marine fuel.


Methanol is being pushed as one solution to meet the IMO’s 2020 deadline for low-sulphur fuels. But it faces challenges in terms of adequate tankage space and commercial availability.

Waterfront Shipping, the vessel subsidiary of major producer Methanex, is the primary user of methanol with seven tankers in operation and another four on order.

Methanol sold on world markets to petrochemical and fuel blenders follows a tighter specification than what could be used for methanol as a marine fuel, Dolan says.

For example, methanol as a bunker fuel can have a higher water content than seen in other uses.

That can also reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from the fuel.

Waterfront Shipping will have a fleet of 11 methanol-capable tankers by next year. Photo: WFS

“If you are using methanol as a ship fuel, water content doesn’t hurt,” Dolan said. “The addition of water can actually reduce nitrogen oxide.”

The standardisation will also help promulgate the use of methanol in fuel cells, which have been promoted as a carbon-free marine fuel. A German passenger ferry, MS innogy, is currently testing the use of methanol fuel cells. Viking Cruises is also testing methanol fuel cells to help power one of its vessels.