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Orders for methanol-fuelled ships could match those for LNG-fuelled vessels this year, says Martin Wold, Principal Consultant in DNV’s Maritime Advisory business.

Speaking at the LNG Bunkering & Future Fuel Global Summit 2023 in Amsterdam this week, Wold told delegates that following ‘two years of fantastic growth’ in 2021 and 2022, which saw more than 200 LNG-fuelled vessels ordered, since last summer the trend had slowed.

This downtrend in the LNG-fuelled orderbook coincided with a period of high gas prices and uncertainty as well as an emerging trend for methanol-fuelled newbuilding orders.

‘These are really the two main drivers for this development,’ said Wold.

However, with gas prices starting to come down, Wold suggested that there is ‘no fundamental reasons why LNG bunkering should not pick up the pace again.’

Turning to methanol, Wold admitted that the burgeoning methanol-fuelled orderbook had ‘come out of nowhere’. As previously reported by Bunkerspot, there were nine such vessels ordered in April and the total number of ordered methanol-fuelled vessels currently stands at 115.

Whether this translates to actual methanol demand when these ships are delivered is, of course, the ‘big question’, said Wold, who also suggested the industry could expect to see the first orders for methanol fuel in the VLCC market this year.

‘I don’t think we should be surprised if methanol orders match the order intake [for] LNG fuel for this year,’ he said.

Wold also alluded to a looming mismatch between LNG-fuelled ships and the vessels that will be required to bunker them.

‘We still really see there’s a supply crunch coming,’ said Wold. He warned that with 800,000 tonnes equivalent LNG demand expected to come online in two years’ time, ‘not all vessels will be bunkered in 2025’ if they’ are looking for LNG and gas is affordable again – although investments in new supply capacity from Netherlands-based Titan, Shell and China National Offshore Oil Corporation has ‘closed the gap a little bit’ compared to last year.

Wold then identified two solutions for the supply/demand problem.

The obvious one is of course to order more [LNG] bunker vessels. That is also the most expensive solution.

‘The second solution is to adopt digital ways of working to achieve higher efficiency and higher utilisation of the bunker vessel assets.’

The efficiency gains, said Wold, have the potential to add an additional two LNG bunker vessels’ worth of equivalent capacity.

‘Just by adopting ways of working getting rid of paperwork on the ships.’

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