LeanShips project tests methanol on Volvo Penta D7 engine

Project aims to demonstrate the potential of methanol as an alternative marine fuel.

LeanShips logo. Image credit: LeanShips

Updated on 05 Apr 2018 13:10 GMT

The LeanShips - or Low Energy And Near to zero emissions Ships - initiative, which is a European innovation project (from the Horizon 2020 Framework Programme) involving 42 partners from various EU states, has been examining the potential of methanol on a Volvo Penta D7 engine with dual-fuel, diesel-methanol operation.

At Ghent University, a Volvo Penta D7 has been converted to dual-fuel, with power output and emissions measured both from the dual-fuel operation and diesel-only operation. In this way, LeanShips aims to be able to draw very concrete conclusions on the advantages of the technology.

Eric Cuyt at Kant Marine explained: "The Volvo Penta engine has been instrumented with sensors and with a new methanol fuel supply system that is suitable to the corrosive properties of methanol.

"The operational principle of the duel-fuel approach is based on port fuel injection of methanol and a pilot diesel direct injection that actually ignites the methanol-air mixture. In doing so, a substantial part of the original diesel consumption will be replaced by methanol."

Methanol selection

Explaining the reason for choosing to use methanol for the project, Ghent University's Sebastian Verhelst, remarked: "In the years before submitting our project proposal to the European Commission, we did an extensive analysis of potential alternative fuels. And to assess these fuels we laid down three ground rules.

"First was sustainability - can the fuel be produced in a sustained way. So, make use of an infinite energy supply and a closed cycle of resources.

"Secondly, scalability - can we scale up the fuels production? Meaning, does it make use of abundantly available - and therefore cheap - resources?

"And third, is it sufficiently compact? So, does it offer a high enough energy density?

"Judged by these three criteria, methanol came out on top."

The collective goal of the partners involved in the LeanShips project is to put innovations into practice by means of seven demonstrator cases.

One of the project teams aims to demonstrate the potential of methanol as an alternative marine fuel.

As one of the most shipped chemicals in the world, methanol is readily available through existing global terminal infrastructure.

Methanol as a marine fuel meets current and upcoming environmental fuel regulations in 2020. Also, as a liquid fuel, LeanShips posits that only minor modifications are needed for current storage and bunkering infrastructure to enable methanol and marine fuelling in major port facilities, in a cost-effective manner.

The LeanShips project has a duration of four years and is coordinated by Damen Shipyards Gorinchem.