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The first vessel to be retrofitted for dual fuel operation is to use liquefied synthetic natural gas (SNG) produced from renewable electrical energy as a drop-in fuel in a project involving MAN Energy Solutions and Wessels Marine GmbH.

Coastal vessel operator Wessels Reederei oversaw the conversion of the Wes Amalie feeder containership to run on LNG in 2017. The vessel’s main engine was replaced with a four-stroke MAN 51/60DF unit. According to MAN Energy Solutions, this retrofit facilitated a reduction in the vessel’s SOx emissions of over 99%. It’s NOx and CO2 emissions were also cut by 90% and 20% respectively.

Now, in a project which also includes Nauticor and charterer Unifeeder, the Wes Amalie will be used to demonstrate that SNG can be used as a marine fuel. Some 20 of the 120 tons of LNG that the vessel typically uses per round trip will be replaced by climate-neutral SNG. The project partners estimate that the fuel switch will reduce CO2 emissions by 56 tons per trip.

Car manufacturer Audi’s power to gas facility in Werlte, Germany – where a liquefaction plant is currently under construction – will supply the SNG, which will be generated by wind energy. The Wes Amalie will begin operation on SNG after the completion of the liquefaction plant which is slated for Q2 2020.

MAN Energy Solutions commissioned the Werlte plant methanation plan in partnership with Audi in 2013, and the unit is the largest of its kind in Europe. MAN, however, is now offering a MW EPC Power-to-X solutions to ramp up generation of synthetic fuel.

‘We need Power-to-Ex out of the labs and into the market in order to produce more competitive, renewable fuels by using scaling effects,’ explained Stefan Eefting, Head of MAN Prime Serv in Augsburg.

‘To bring down future emissions generated in the global-trade supply chain, synthetic fuels play a crucial role. Especially in shipping, the use of batteries alone is not a viable option and any successful decarbonisation efforts need to address the fuel. Power-to-X technology allows the generation of 100% climate-neutral natural gas from renewable energy. This technology has tremendous potential and needs to be freed from regulatory burdens and to be developed on an industrial scale to bring down costs.’

Commenting on the next Wes Amalie landmark project, he said: ‘This is another important milestone and proof of concept for the Maritime Energy Transition, the initiative we have been driving since 2016. We strongly believe that a roadmap based on LNG and SNG as fuels can lead the way to a decarbonised future for shipping and, in Wessels Marine, we have the perfect partner.’

‘The Wes Amelie project has always been about demonstrating the technologically doable while pointing out the regulatory actions necessary to make it possible,’ said Christian Hoepfner, Managing Owner of Wessels Marine, Hamburg.

‘The initial retrofit to LNG took support from the German Government to be financially viable, but it was a huge success for the environment in that it drastically reduced emissions. As a consequence, there now is a retrofit programme in place to make more retrofits happen.’

He continued: ‘In another world-first, we will now demonstrate that SNG can successfully be used to reduce harmful emissions even further as the fuel is climate-neutral. However, the costs are still way too high. Going forward, governments and regulators will have to work together to make this a viable and available option for ship owners.’

GLOBAL: Wessels Reederei opts for further LNG retrofits

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