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Alfa Laval believes that ‘the next step’ in the maritime industry’s energy transition ‘will likely be methanol, which – if produced from renewable green sources – will bring the industry to a level of carbon neutrality’.

In a statement sent to Bunkerspot today (31 August), the company added that: ‘At Alfa Laval, the technologies to enable that step are in rapid development.’

Alongside its work on new solutions, Alfa Laval has also teamed up with MAN Energy Solutions to develop a low-flashpoint supply system (LFSS) for ME-LGIM two-stroke engines. Meanwhile, the Alfa Laval FCM Methanol has already racked up more than 100,000 hours of operation, and it has been further developed to meet the additional requirements of methanol-fuelled four-stroke engines and Alfa Laval Aalborg boilers.

Explaining the benefits of Alfa Laval’s methanol offerings, Roberto Comelli, Business Manager Fuel Conditioning Systems, said: ‘Shipowners will save space and energy by using the same 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.’

Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Head of Technology Development, Energy Solutions, added: ‘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.

‘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.’

Looking ahead, Alfa pointed out that, because methanol contains less energy than traditional fuels, it will be necessary to ‘rethink energy use on methanol-fuelled vessels’. While Alfa Laval said it is already working with partners to developing high-temperature proton exchange membrane (HTPEM) fuel cells to supplement energy production, it maintained that a ‘new approach to existing energy sources will also be needed’.

Jørgensen commented: ‘Waste heat recovery, which is usually overlooked on today’s vessels, will be a key component of tomorrow’s methanol operations.

‘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 said it is addressing this wider energy picture with both existing and new solutions. The Alfa Laval Aalborg Micro, for example, is already a well-established exhaust gas boiler. Connected to a fired boiler, it will add steam to a shared steam drum, thereby reducing methanol consumption by the burner. But it will also be possible to combine with a plate heat exchanger and the Alfa Laval E-PowerPack, a new solution 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.’

Summing up, Jørgensen said that many shipowners are now ‘actively exploring the implementation of methanol’ – and Alfa Laval ‘welcomes collaboration with customers, research partners and other technology suppliers’ because ‘the transition to methanol is a journey the industry must make together’.

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