First inland tankers powered by methanol and hydrogen


Mercurius Shipping’s general manager Robert-Jan Zimmerman and Claudia Bremer and Wouter van Reenen of the VT-Group discussed this in further detail at the ‘EICB Innovation Lab’ on the energy transition in inland shipping, which was held last month.

The stainless steel chemical tanker Stolt IJssel (110 x 14.04 meters, 5000 tons) is currently under construction at Mercurius. A dual-fuel methanol generator and two Stage V-certified diesel generators from Koedood will shortly power the electrically propelled ship (603 KWe S6R KEES Mitsubishis).

The engine’s methanol tank is located at the stern. It’s piped to the day tank of the methanol generator at the bow through an above-deck conduit. The front also houses the two diesel generators. ‘Marc Freriks introduced methanol as a fuel a long back, and it’s a really accessible product for us,’ Zimmerman said. ‘We transfer it frequently. Until now, gray methanol was the only option, but it is a reasonably basic substance that can be made green in a variety of ways. From biological raw resources, as well as hydrogen generated with green power and CO2 captured from the environment It’s a straightforward, low-cost transition fuel that’s also safe to carry. We chose a dual-fuel engine so that we can always use gas oil if necessary. DNV and Lloyd’s are also prepared to provide certification and rules.’

Although Zimmerman has labeled hydrogen (with batteries) the “holy grail” of emission-free inland transportation, he believes that for the time being, methanol for a chemical tanker without a designated trade is a far more reasonable choice. ‘Hydrogen is a complicated substance. You can’t get this off the ground without a lot of money. There are also operational risks associated with bunkering and deployability. For the time being, forget about hydrogen and batteries if you wish to sail on all routes with a chemical tanker with two blue cones. I believe that with hydrogen and batteries, you can already provide point-to-point transportation on a set route, with fixed charging locations for batteries and/or hydrogen.’

Costs of conversion

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management’s DKTI-Transport subsidizes roughly 34% of the conversion expenses. This equates to 110,000 euros for the Stolt Danube. ‘However, the overall added expenses are far larger,’ Zimmerman adds. ‘This ship was initially designed with Sjaak Oudakker as a totally diesel-electric vessel. Three of them have already been constructed, including the bow generators. The accommodations are quite quiet, and there is space in the back of those ships for future batteries or fuel cells. In that location, a double-walled methanol tank will now be installed.’

Tanker transporting hydrogen

The type-C tanker Volendam (86 x 11.50 meters, 1917 tons) will have its diesel direct drive (Caterpillar) replaced with a hydrogen-electric drive with fuel cells by VT. The Volendam follows a set path between Antwerp and Jemeppe for vinyl manufacturer Inovyn (near Brussels). Inovyn is a good source of hydrogen. It is, in reality, a by-product of Jemeppe’s vinyl manufacturing. The Volendam will absorb around 90 tons of the 5000 tons of hydrogen released there each year.

VT chemical engineer and worldwide account manager Claudia Beumer remarked, “Like Robert-Jan, we looked at all alternatives and ended up with hydrogen.” ‘This initiative is supported by a long-term contract with Inovyn, which allows for funding. Inovyn wants to operate in a climate-neutral manner and is encouraging its suppliers to do so. They are prepared to spend a bit more in order to make this more appealing.

The Volendam’s fuel cell technology will be capable of 300 kW and will be backed up by a 600 kWh lithium-ion battery pack. In gas tanks, hydrogen is transferred under high pressure. Probably in a variety of containers that can be swapped out. Koedood and Shipyard Gebr. cage guy created the fuel cell system. According to VT business developer Wouter van Reenen, switching from gas oil to hydrogen saves 1,125,000 kilos of CO2. ‘Fuel cell efficiency is also 50 to 60 percent greater than that of the Volendam’s diesel engine (about 42 percent).’

Arnes Biogradlija
Creative Content Director at EnergyNews.Biz

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