IMO issues guidelines for low carbon marine fuels, benefiting methanol

Author: Eashani Chavda

2020/11/09

LONDON (ICIS)--The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has given the green light to the use of ethyl and methyl alcohols, more commonly known as ethanol and methanol, as low carbon marine fuels, potentially speeding up the shipping industry's transition to a lower carbon emissions future.

After years of discussion, the guidelines were approved by the IMO's Maritime Safety Committee provisionally, with the final outcome set to be published later in November, a spokesperson for the shipping regulatory body said to ICIS.

The conclusion can be read here.

"We will be including this [the conclusions] in the final summary of the Maritime Safety Committee, which we hope to issue by the end of this week," said the spokesperson.

"The Interim Guidelines address all areas that need special consideration for the use of methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel. They are guidelines to say [to the shipping industry]:  If you use methanol as fuel, these are the safety considerations to bear in mind."

The IMO aims to provide the industry guidelines on the arrangement, installation, control, and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using methyl/ethyl alcohol as fuel to "minimise the risk to the ship, its crew, and the environment", it said.

METHANOL PRODUCERS CHEER
Global producers' trade group the Methanol Institute (MI) welcomed the IMO's guidelines, adding they were the necessary step for more ship operators to consider methanol as fuel.

“Our work with shipowners, class societies, flag administrations and bunkering providers demonstrates there is pent-up demand for a low carbon fuel that can help owners meet their 2030 emission reduction targets at a fraction of the cost of an LNG [liquefied natural gas] powered vessel,” said MI's chief operating officer (COO), Chris Chatterton.

“With new methanol guidelines the industry truly has a choice that can help start to reduce emissions with the regulatory certainty it needs.”

The MI added the new guidelines could shorten the time for approvals as well as reduce the cost of constructing tankers, bulkers and containerships using methanol as fuel.

Methanol is primarily used to produce formaldehyde, methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE) and acetic acid.

Smaller amounts go into production of dimethyl terephthalate (DMT), methyl methacrylate (MMA), chloromethanes, methylamines, glycol methyl ethers, and fuels applications such dimethyl ether (DME), biodiesel and the direct blending into gasoline.

Additional reporting by Jonathan Lopez