Back in Business
Stena Line just became the world’s first shipping company to operate a ferry with methanol as the main fuel. Stena Germanica Ro-Pax Ferry returned to servicing its old route between Gothenburg, Sweden to Kiel, Germany in March 2015 after a six week hiatus for conversion that made her the world’s first methanol powered ferry.
Measuring 240m by 29m and capable of carrying 300 cars and 1,500 passengers, the Stena Germanica is the second largest Ro-Pax ferry in the world and the largest in the Nordic region capable of coasting along at 25.1 knots.
And if everything goes right, Stena Line plans to convert 25 more vessels to run on methanol. Stena Line is among the world’s largest ferry operators and is running numerous ship emission reduction projects such as the use of electric propulsion, liquefied natural gas (LNG), and scrubbers.
This conversion is a result of IMO regulations that cap the sulphur content in ship fuels to 0.1% for ships sailing in Emission Control Areas (ECAs) from January 1, 2015. Stena Germanica’s route goes through the Baltic Sea and North Sea ECAs. The other two ECAs are the North American ECA and the U.S.-Caribbean ECA.
Ro-Pax Vessels & the Promise of Methane
Roll-On/Roll-Off (Ro-Ro) vessels transport only wheeled cargo such as automobiles, railroad cars, semi-trailer trucks, trucks, and trailers that are directly driven on and off the vessel. Roll-On/Roll-Off Passenger (Ro-Pax) vessels carry wheeled cargo as well as passengers.
Stena Germanica uses methanol as main fuel and marine gas oil (MGO) as the supplementary fuel. While MGO complies with the said fuel sulphur cap in ECAs, it is 40-50% more expensive than the presently used fuel – heavy fuel oil (HFO).
Methanol is an environment friendly, biodegradable, and cost efficient fuel. It will enable Stena Germanica to curtail its emissions of sulphur dioxide (SOX) by 99%, nitrogen oxides (NOX) by 60%, particles by 95%, and carbon dioxide (CO2) by 25%.
A colorless, clear, and biodegradable fuel, methanol is produced from natural gas, biomass, or coal and is liquid at room temperature. Chemically, methanol or methyl alcohol is CH3OH while LNG is 95% methane (CH4). Their combustion reactions are:
Methanol and LNG have fairly similar combustion reactions. What makes many look at methanol with promising eyes is that it is handled more conveniently than LNG and requires lesser infrastructure than is necessary for LNG.
Indirect Land Use Change (ILUC) Impacts of Biofuels is a huge challenge while using methanol and biodiesel. ILUC is the increase in carbon emissions due to changes in land use patterns to grow crops that produce methanol and biodiesel. The increase in carbon emissions is often more than the reduction achieved by methanol and biodiesel.
Stena Germanica was built as Stena Hollandica by Astilleros Espanoles and operated on the Holland-Harwich route from 2001. The vessel was converted in 2007 and then in 2010. It was renamed Stena Germanica in August 2010 when it was moved to the Gothenburg-Kiev route.
European Union’s (EU’s) Trans-European Transport Networks (TEN-T) Program financed half of the cost of the current conversion that amounted to €22million (just under $25million). Remontowa Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland converted the vessel.
Wartsila developed the new engine conversion kit and ship application. EU’s Motorways of the Seas Program supported the conversion. Other collaborators include Methanex Corporation – the world’s largest producer-supplier of methanol, Lloyd’s Register, ship designer ScandiNaos, the Port of Guthenburg, and the Port of Kiel.
Project collaborators chose the Wartsila-Suzler 8-Cylinder 8ZAL 40S MD Engine that provides 24MW or 32,000 horsepower output. It was fitted with dual-fuel injection nozzles capable of spraying both, methanol and MGO. The engine is equipped with a high pressure (600bar) methanol pump.
Designers had completed the technical designs of all the installations needed for methanol conversion in 2013. In October 2014, testers had checked these installations in preliminary laboratory tests using a methanol-modified Wartsila 6ZAL40S engine.
(Retrieved From: https://www.hapag-lloyd.com/en/about_us/environment_low_sulphur_fuel.html)
Lloyd’s Register, that will class the Stena Germanica, performed the initial approval studies. Wartsila was responsible for the conversion of the engine to operate on methanol. Metso updated the ferry’s automation systems. Stena completed the tasks related to adaptation of HFO tanks for methanol, onboard installations, and ship safety mechanisms.
Stena Line has just set a fine example for the entire shipping community to emulate. By 2020 or latest by 2025, ships plying in all areas of all seas and oceans across the world will not be able to use fuel with over 0.5% sulphur. It pays to start early.