Getting ready, staying flexible

As methanol bunkering becomes a reality, Singapore is preparing for the possibility of a methanol bunker spill. Meanwhile, methanol is starting to be seen as an option for the cruise industry

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is preparing for the eventuality of a methanol spill.  It organised a table-top exercise (TTX) at the 13th biennial International Chemical and Oil Pollution Conference and Exhibition (ICOPCE) in April. This was to review new safeguards, clarify roles and responsibilities, and strengthen cross-agency coordination for an effective response.


May 25, 2023

The scenario involved a methanol spill at sea to prepare for methanol bunkering in the Port of Singapore later this year. A modelling study of plume clouds that could form when methanol is suddenly released into the atmosphere during an incident or emergency was presented by MPA’s port chemist.


Participants also learnt about the specific hazards of methanol where a methanol flame is difficult to detect by sight, possible safety measures that could be adopted when handling the fuel, effective measures to detect and put out a methanol fire onboard a vessel, and the training of seafarers, operators, and engineers to reduce the risks of methanol handling.


Panos Koutsourakis, Vice President, Global Sustainability from ABS, said, “ABS is committed to supporting the safe adoption of methanol by the industry and today’s event is an important aspect of that. This year’s ICOPCE TTX provided participants with insights into the behaviour of methanol in a maritime operating environment and helped build confidence of how the maritime industry can safely manage its risks and hazards while achieving net-zero emissions. By working together to examine challenges and explore solutions, we can keep our industry in the forefront of the energy transition.”


The Singapore Chemical Industry Council has formed a working group, in consultation with MPA, to develop a Technical Reference (TR) for methanol bunkering for Singapore. The TR will cover custody transfer requirements for delivery of methanol from the bunker tanker to receiving vessels, operational and safety requirements for methanol bunkering as well as crew training and competency. The TR is expected to be ready in 2024.


According to MPA, since 2022, Singapore has completed more than 70 methanol loading and discharging operations for industrial use, measuring a total of more than 400,000 tonnes. These operations were conducted across 10 storage tanks at Jurong Island of varying capacities at Vopak Terminals, Stolthaven Terminal, Petrochemical Corporation of Singapore (PCS) Terminal, and Chevron Oronite Terminal. These tanks can also be used to store methanol for bunkering requirements.

Meanwhile, the latest of its Edge series cruise ships ordered by Celebrity Cruises will be fitted with ship two Wärtsilä 46F engines converted to run on methanol as well as “two other conventional fuel types”, according to the engine manufacturer. It says the move involves close cooperation between it, Celebrity Cruises’ parent company Royal Caribbean Group and the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard.


The engine order was placed in January 2023 and the vessel is scheduled for delivery from the yard in 2025. The incorporation of methanol-ready engines represents Celebrity’s next step towards achieving Destination Net Zero, its vision for net zero emissions by 2050.


“With the launch of our Edge Series of ships in 2018, we set ambitious sustainability goals to make these ships the most energy efficient large vessels at sea,” said Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo. “Working collaboratively with our expert partners, we have continued to develop new technologies and achieve breakthroughs with each subsequent ship.”


“Wärtsilä has invested heavily into researching viable future carbon-neutral fuels for the marine industry, and methanol has emerged as one of the most promising candidates. This will be the second methanol-fuelled engine conversion that we have undertaken, and the first with the Wärtsilä 46F engine. We share a commitment to decarbonise shipping, and the transparent partnership between our three companies for this newbuild project represents an important milestone along the path to achieving this goal,” commented Håkan Agnevall, President and CEO of Wärtsilä.

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