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Tuesday, August 31, 2021 

Alfa Laval's FCM Methanol fuel conditioning system, developed for MAN B&W's ME-LGIM two-stroke engines, enabling operation on low flashpoint fuels, has now reached more than 100,000 hours of operation, and the solution is being further developed to meet the additional requirements of methanol-fuelled four-stroke engines and Alfa Laval Aalborg boilers.

The company believes that the marine industry's ambitious decarbonisation goals will not be achieved overnight. The next step in the transition will likely be methanol, which – if produced from renewable green sources – will bring the industry to a level of carbon neutrality. Alfa Laval says that the technologies to enable that step are in rapid development.

As a low-flashpoint fuel, methanol poses significant challenges that require a new approach to fuel supply. With experience in fuel line solutions for traditional fuels, Alfa Laval has been at the forefront with methanol, partnering with MAN Energy Solutions.

Roberto Comelli, Business Manager Fuel Conditioning Systems, said: “Shipowners will save space and energy by using the same low flashpoint fuel supply system (LFSS) for the main engine, auxiliary engines and boilers fired with methanol. We can engineer one FCM Methanol system to handle the process parameters of multiple methane consumers, with automation that meets all their different needs.”

“When it comes to Aalborg boilers, which are prepared to work with methanol through our MultiFlame burner concept, the FCM Methanol ensures the correct fuel parameters,” said Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Head of Technology Development, Energy Solutions. “What remains is to fine-tune methanol combustion for maximum boiler efficiency, which is work that’s already in progress in full-scale testing at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre.”

Handling and combusting methanol, however, will be only one side of the methanol equation. Because methanol contains less energy than traditional fuels, it will also be necessary to rethink energy use on methanol-fuelled vessels. Alfa Laval and partners are developing high-temperature proton exchange membrane (HTPEM) full cells to supplement energy production, but a new approach to existing energy sources will also be needed.

“Waste heat recovery, which is usually overlooked on today’s vessels, will be a key component of tomorrow’s methanol operations,” said Jørgensen. “There will be less demand for steam on board, but the heat energy will need to be applied in other ways. Due to methanol’s lower energy content and higher price, shipowners will want to turn every bit of the energy released into either mechanical or electrical power.”

Alfa Laval is addressing this wider energy picture with both existing and new solutions, including the Alfa Laval E-PowerPack, based on the Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC).

“ORC technology can generate electricity from any heat source on board, however small,” said Jørgensen. “By using the Aalborg Micro to produce hot water, rather than steam, shipowners will have a medium that’s easily converted into additional power. Along with the fuel cells in development, ORC technology will help vessels maintain their energy balance after switching to methanol. Many shipowners are actively exploring the implementation of methanol, and Alfa Laval can be a strong sparring partner in that process.”

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