Fri 15 Sep 2023 12:21

World's first methanol-fuelled boxship completes maiden trip

Fuel secured for initial months of operation, with bunkering to take place in Rotterdam.

The world's first methanol-fuelled container ship, Laura Maersk.

The world's first methanol-fuelled container ship has completed its maiden journey from Ulsan to Copenhagen.

The vessel arrived at Skagen anchorage on August 31; then made the short trip to Copenhagen anchorage from September 10-11, and was christened Laura Maersk during a naming ceremony in Copenhagen three days later.

Ordered in August 2021 and built by Hyundai Heavy Industries (HHI), the Laura Maersk has a 2,100-TEU container capacity and dual-fuel capability, thus enabling operation on methanol as well as conventional low-sulphur fuel.

The methanol propulsion configuration was developed in collaboration with manufacturers MAN ES, Hyundai Himsen and Alfa Laval.

When the initial methanol-enabled vessel orders were announced in 2021, Maersk stated that it aimed to operate the ships on carbon-neutral e-methanol or sustainable bio-methanol as soon as possible, whilst also acknowledging the challenges involved in sourcing the required methanol production.

And as part of that process, Maersk announced earlier this week that it had signed an agreement with Equinor to secure the supply of green methanol for its landmark feeder vessel during the initial months of operation in northern Europe, between September 2023 and the first half of 2024. The methanol bunkering of the Laura Maersk is to take place in Rotterdam during this period.

Equinor — which runs a production plant in Tjeldbergodden, Norway — is an established player in Europe's methanol market; and Alex Grant, Senior Vice President for the liquid commodity segment at Equinor, stated this week that the company has "ambitions to be a key provider of green methanol in the marine fuel segment."

The methanol used for the Laura Maersk's 21,500 km trip from the Republic of Korea to Denmark was sourced from Dutch producer OCI Global, with physical marine fuel supplier Hong Lam delivering methanol to the ship in Singapore towards the end of July, and VPS carrying out the bunker quantity survey.

OCI produces its methanol at a US-based facility by using captured biogas from decomposing organic waste in landfills. The biogas is upgraded to biomethane and injected into the gas grid, and methanol is then produced from biomethane in the grid.

Maersk has set itself the target of transporting a minimum of 25% of its Ocean division cargo using green fuels by 2030, compared to a 2020 baseline; and the shipper has a 2040 target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

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