THE International Maritime Organization has tasked the International Organization for Standardization to develop a standard for methyl/ethyl alcohol as a marine fuel and a standard for methyl/ethyl alcohol fuel couplings.
The decision was taken at the 99th session of the IMO Maritime Safety Committee and represents a step forward for the uptake of methanol as a marine fuel, which would meet the IMO’s 2020 emissions regulations.
The decision was welcomed by the Methanol Institute (MI), which serves as the trade association for the international methanol industry.
MI chief operating officer Chris Chatterton said the global chemicals industry currently relies on the IMPCA specification for producers and consumers, but a dedicated ISO standard would help shipowners understand the fuel in a bunkers context.
“We are seeing increasing interest around Methanol as a liquid fuel that is safe to handle easy to ship and store and is more widely available than other low sulphur alternatives,” he said.
According to the MI, there are currently eight ships trading internationally operating on Methanol as fuel: the ro-pax Stena Germanica and seven tankers operated by Waterfront Shipping with at least four more expected to enter into service in 2019.
International bunker Industry Association IMO representative Unni Einemo said a comment was made during the Maritime Safety Committee session that fuel standards should be developed before ships begin using such low-flashpoint fuels so safety concerns are addressed before more ships start using them.
“However, ISO has traditionally developed fuel standards only after user experience to be able to assess which parameters need to be specified, and also what relevant limits should be,” Ms Einemo said.
The race to meet the demands of the IMO’s impending cap on sulphur in fuel is on, with the deadline to switch to fuel with a sulphur content of 0.5% or less set at 1 January 2020.
LNG is looking to be an early front-runner for an alternative bunker to heavy fuel oil, with many companies ordering LNG-fuelled ships and investing in bunker infrastructure in ports.
CMA CGM recently put in an order for nine 22,000-TEU containerships, all to be equipped with LNG-fired engines.