Maersk Inexperienced Methanol Plans Will not Decarbonize Methanol A lot


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Main delivery agency A.P. Moller – Maersk continues to put money into inexperienced methanol and dual-fuel ships to burn it in. The agency made the selection for inexperienced methanol as its decarbonization technique and is executing. Whereas I believe that inexperienced methanol is merely the most effective of the also-ran options for the area, with batteries and biofuels being the far more affordable and stronger contenders, I respect their selection.

However there are nuances of their strategy price contemplating. The information which triggered this was that Maersk did execute on one thing that had been within the works. Reviews point out that the agency has purchased half of an Egyptian wind farm supposed to gasoline inexperienced methanol manufacturing subsequent to the Suez Canal.

I first revealed on the Egyptian plans in early 2022, once I was engaged to evaluate European hydrogen initiatives in northern Africa. Egypt is offering vital fiscal tax breaks for inexperienced hydrogen, ammonia and methanol initiatives, and area within the Ain Sokhna financial zone beside the canal.

Not way back, Maersk’s first dual-fuel ship slid into the water in South Korea for its lengthy journey to Denmark. Whereas Maersk promoted its use of inexperienced methanol, sourced from biomethane at a U.S. landfill, the presumed transportation of this gasoline over 10,000 km to Ulsan raises questions on its environmental impression. Moreover, the Maersk ship wanted to refuel a number of instances throughout its journey, in Singapore and Egypt, resulting in uncertainties about the kind of gasoline getting used. There have been doubts relating to whether or not the Singaporean tanker, which can have transported the inexperienced methanol, is utilizing unabated methanol with increased CO2e emissions than diesel, or if it’s utilizing diesel itself.

In truth, it’s been revealed that Maerk’s dual-fuel ships, once they run on methanol in any respect, will likely be impossible to be burning inexperienced methanol straight, at the least not for a very long time. As a result of very apparent logistical challenges of getting comparatively tiny quantities of inexperienced methanol to a lot of ports that don’t have it, Maersk as a substitute is successfully doing what Microsoft does when it buys wind energy tons of of kilometers away from a knowledge heart. It’s utilizing no matter methanol is offered regionally, and paying for the creation of inexperienced methanol which will likely be utilized by another finish person some place else.

In precept, this is similar as Microsoft’s acquisition of inexperienced electrons, nonetheless, there are some nuances price attending to. Let’s begin with fundamental methanol for delivery. It’s wooden alcohol, which implies it burns cleanly, however non-green methanol is a a lot greater carbon drawback than marine diesel or resid.

Table of CO2e emissions for diesel, methanol and ammonia as a maritime fuel

Desk of CO2e emissions for diesel, methanol and ammonia as a maritime gasoline

I created this desk some time in the past based mostly on the Methanol Institute’s numbers for carbon emissions in manufacturing of the liquid. The common of methanols around the globe emit 2.9 instances as a lot greenhouse fuel as marine diesel does, so clearly that’s not a local weather win.

At current, manufacturing methanol from pure fuel, coal fuel, and different gases has a carbon footprint of 500 to 700 million tons of carbon dioxide or equal globally. That’s within the vary of 1-2% of world greenhouse fuel emissions. It’s a giant local weather drawback.

The Institute is the worldwide lobbying arm for the business and it actually doesn’t like this actuality and makes positive it by no means does the comparability itself in any paperwork. On the similar time, it’s pushing onerous for methanol to be the ‘low-carbon’ delivery gasoline of the longer term.

The business has been promoting excessive carbon methanol as a ‘clear burning’ gasoline to the delivery business for years and promising that really inexperienced methanol could be the identical worth as marine delivery fuels right this moment. It’s very a lot a bait and swap, and it’s engaged on Maersk and others. Many individuals are below the phantasm that inexperienced hydrogen will likely be low cost, so Maersk isn’t alone in making this error.

Methanol is already dearer right this moment than marine fuels, a median of 1.6 instances the price of marine diesel throughout main jurisdictions. Sooner or later, it is going to be far more costly, as like hydrogen it may be inexperienced however received’t be low cost by both straight assembling artificial methanol utilizing very effectively understood chemical engineering processes, or manufacturing it from biomethane. It’s prone to be two to 5 instances the price actually, or three to eight instances the price of present maritime delivery gasoline.

This too is one thing the Institute actually doesn’t need anybody to grasp, and Maersk is simply prone to be starting to grasp because it indicators contracts for biomethanol and artificial methanol. I strongly suspect the methanol producers supplying it are offering it at or beneath value within the brief time period to get Maersk and others hooked, with the truth of upper costs unveiled solely later. If true, is {that a} authorized enterprise follow? Positive, so long as you aren’t colluding throughout the business to take action or creating an enormous monopoly by unfair pricing practices. Is it moral? Not a lot. Is it an excellent local weather resolution? Not likely.

If methanol turns into the marine delivery gasoline of the longer term, in my projection of vitality necessities for parts that received’t electrify, methanol demand would possible triple to nearer to 500 million tons. In vitality projections which fake that delivery will improve considerably and ignore electrification, the methanol demand could be effectively over a billion tons a 12 months. You’ll be able to see why the methanol business is working so onerous to make this the vitality supply of selection.

However to be clear, Maersk’s efforts are far more virtuous than Methanex’ Atlantic crossing by a ship powered by purportedly inexperienced methanol that was truly 96% fossil pure fuel derived. That was a number of the most egregious greenwashing I’ve seen within the area. However how virtuous is making certain that a few of methanol in circulation is inexperienced?

One upside of Maersk making certain that inexperienced methanol is manufactured is that it’s making a market and enabling efficiencies and economies to be present in deployed websites. We don’t make inexperienced methanol right this moment as a result of pure and coal fuel is filth low cost, so there’s little or no expertise with synthesizing it at an industrial scale or manufacturing it from biomethane, though the latter is far more aligned with present industrial practices. Maersk placing cash into that’s good as a result of the methanol business globally has to decarbonize to ensure that local weather objectives to be met.

There’s additionally a powerful argument that the inexperienced methanol it bought for the lengthy preliminary journey was very inexperienced. It was manufactured from biomethane emitted from landfills within the USA. Methane is a way more potent greenhouse fuel than carbon dioxide, and our meals waste, livestock dung, wooden chips and agricultural stalk waste is a really giant local weather drawback as effectively. Diverting biomethane that we’re unintentionally creating into methanol is a superb solution to make it a deeply carbon unfavourable industrial product. That stated, landfills have been required for years to seize or burn off the methane that comes from them within the developed world, so the percentages that the inexperienced methanol was comprised of biomethane that may in any other case have been vented to the environment are low.

The massive down facet is that Maersk shouldn’t be taking any of these legacy methanol emissions off the board. It’s shopping for extra methanol that may not in any other case be manufactured. Its use of methanol as a delivery gasoline is along with the roughly 170 million tons manufactured yearly.

Job one for main local weather issues is to repair the emissions of the present merchandise or cut back using them, not multiply demand for them.

Multiplying demand for methanol isn’t like rising electrical energy demand. That commodity already powers business, commerce, transportation, heating, and lighting all over the place, and everybody makes use of it. An information heart, for instance, whereas a giant energy draw, remains to be a tiny fraction of electrical energy. Methanol is a way more narrowly industrial feedstock, one which isn’t burned. Multiplying demand for it and having that use case explicitly create carbon dioxide is on the different finish of the spectrum.

There may be one other benefit to methanol price mentioning. It doesn’t create practically as a lot air air pollution in ports as ships steam out and in, and as they sit in ports operating their auxiliary energy models. That’s good. It’s additionally considerably irrelevant as the identical outcomes will be met with a lot decrease issues with hybrid battery-electric drivetrains and mooring provision on auxiliary energy, one thing that’s already spreading rapidly.

My expectations of what’s going to truly occur with Maersk’s dual-fuel ships stay unchanged. As the worth and footprint of methanol sinks in, and as they get carbon-priced by the EU emissions buying and selling scheme and carbon border adjustment mechanisms, the ships will find yourself bunkering biodiesel and virtually by no means burn methanol. It is going to be cheaper, vastly extra accessible in ports and be extra local weather pleasant. The actual pathway for delivery which doesn’t simply electrify fully is dual-fuel with electrons and biofuels.


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