METHANOL - STORAGE TANKS & CONVERSION TO H2

 

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The Autonomous AI solar and wind powered ship Elizabeth Swann

 

NEW BOY ON THE BLOCK - In this CAD end elevation, it is possible to see how the simple trimaran hull design lends itself to experimental use of methanol in the quest for zero emission waterborne transport. But like all technical challenges, until somebody does it, the trophy remains up for grabs. Nobody has yet crossed the major oceans on methanol as a stored fuel.

 

 

 

 

Methanol can be used in internal combustion engines, typically with diesel, or in fuel cells, for an all electric propulsion solution. But how might this be achieved and what range and performance might we expect, and finally what is the cost?

 

The design of the Elizabeth Swann's hulls gives us the opportunity to incorporate substantial methanol storage tanks for use in fuel cells, if and as appropriate - or even as a demonstrator for various marine electric systems.

 

We are looking for a good compromise, reduced weight, at a sensible price, while still offering the storage capacity for blue water voyages and for use as a medium size ferry.

 

INTERNAL COMBUSTION ENGINES

 

Methanol is mixed with water and injected into high performance diesel and gasoline engines for an increase of power and a decrease in intake air temperature in a process known as water methanol injection.

The chief advantage of a methanol economy is that it could be adapted to gasoline internal combustion engines with minimum modification to the engines and to the infrastructure that delivers and stores liquid fuel. Its energy density is however only half that of gasoline, meaning that twice the volume of methanol would be required.

Methanol is an alternative fuel for ships that helps the shipping industry meet increasingly strict emissions regulations. It significantly reduces emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter. Methanol can be used with high efficiency in marine diesel engines after minor modifications using a small amount of pilot fuel (Dual fuel).

Methanol, also known as methyl alcohol, amongst other names, is a chemical and the simplest alcohol, with the formula CH3OH (a methyl group linked to a hydroxyl group, often abbreviated MeOH). It is a light, volatile, colourless, flammable liquid with a distinctive alcoholic odour similar to that of ethanol (potable alcohol). A polar solvent, methanol acquired the name wood alcohol because it was once produced chiefly by the destructive distillation of wood. Today, methanol is mainly produced industrially by hydrogenation of carbon monoxide.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FILLING THE TANKS UP

 

Methanol is a globally available fuel, claimed to be sold in over 100 ports worldwide, and among the lowest emission fuels for marine engines. Methanol is already making an impact in ports and on the high seas, powering tankers, ferries, pilot boats and more.

 

Methanol has a high energy density (3450 Wh kg and 3000 Wh l in a 1:1 molar ratio with water). It is easy to handle and is completely miscible with water, but is corrosive to some metals (aluminium). It can also be produced from a variety of sources and is available from pharmacies at a low price.

The energy density of hydrogen is 520 Wh/L (in case of 2,000 psi gas cylinder). However, methanol has 4,817 Wh/L of energy density Since space and weight are at a premium in most transportation, DMFC is attractive for transportation applications.

 

 

 

Blue World Technologies, marine methanol power pack

 

 

GLOBAL ECONOMY

 

As the global economy prepares for an energy transition that will change the future of energy landscapes, new alternative fuels are coming to the fore. Hydrogen has been gaining traction as a clean alternative fuel as it only emits water upon combustion. However, there are a number of inherent challenges with the production, handling, and consumption of hydrogen with the state of technology today. It is still expensive to produce clean hydrogen from renewable sources. As a gas, hydrogen also requires capital-intensive infrastructure for its storage and transport.

Methanol is tomorrow’s hydrogen, today. It is an extremely efficient hydrogen carrier, packing more hydrogen in one simple alcohol molecule than can be found in hydrogen. Being a liquid at ambient conditions, methanol can be handled, stored, and transported with ease by leveraging existing infrastructure that supports the global trade of methanol. Methanol reformers are able to generate on-demand hydrogen at the point of use to avoid the complexity and high cost associated with the logistics of hydrogen as a fuel. Methanol can also be produced from sustainable and green pathways to allow it to be a carrier of low carbon, and potentially carbon-neutral, hydrogen.

Fuel cells use hydrogen as a fuel to produce clean and efficient electricity that can power cars, trucks, buses, ships, cell phone towers, homes and businesses. Methanol is an excellent hydrogen carrier fuel, packing more hydrogen in this simple alcohol molecule than can be found in hydrogen that’s been compressed (350-700 bar) or liquefied (-253˚C).

Methanol can be “reformed” on-site at a fueling station to generate hydrogen for fuel cell cars. Or in stationary power units feeding fuel cells for mobile phone towers, construction sites, or ocean buoys. Methanol fuel cells can be fueled just as quickly as your current gasoline or diesel vehicle, and can extend the range of a battery electric vehicle from 200 km to over over 1,000 km.

Blue World Technologies, headquartered in Aalborg, Denmark, is an advanced developer and manufacturer of Methanol Fuel cell components and systems for use in mobility and automotive applications. The result is Electric vehicles with 1000km range, 3 min refueling using existing infrastructure and zero harmful emissions.

Mads Friis Jensen, CCO at Blue World Technologies
Mobile: +45 29 70 74 88, e-mail: mfj@blue.world

 

 

       

 

 

 

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FUEL CELLS

 

Whichever of the four proposed solutions, we will use fuel cells to convert hydrogen to electricity.

 

DIRECT METHANOL FUEL CELLS

Direct-methanol fuel cells or DMFCs are a subcategory of proton-exchange fuel cells in which methanol is used as the fuel. Their main advantage is the ease of transport of methanol, an energy-dense yet reasonably stable liquid at all environmental conditions.

Whilst the thermodynamic theoretical energy conversion efficiency of a DMFC is 97%; the currently achievable energy conversion efficiency for operational cells attains 30% – 40%. There is intensive research on promising approaches to increase the operational efficiency.

REFORMED OR INDIRECT METHANOL FUEL CELLS RMFC - IMFC

Reformed Methanol Fuel Cell (RMFC) or Indirect Methanol Fuel Cell (IMFC) systems are a subcategory of proton-exchange fuel cells where, the fuel, methanol (CH3OH), is reformed, before being fed into the fuel cell. RMFC systems offer advantages over direct methanol fuel cell (DMFC) systems including higher efficiency, smaller cell stacks, less requirement on methanol purity, no water management, better operation at low temperatures, and storage at sub-zero temperatures because methanol is a liquid from -97.0 °C to 64.7 °C (-142.6 °F to 148.5 °F) and as there is no liquid methanol-water mixture in the cells which can destroy the membrane of DMFC in case of frost. The reason for the high efficiency of RMFC in contrast to DMFC is that hydrogen containing gas is fed to the fuel cell stack instead of methanol and overpotential (power loss for catalytic conversion) on anode is much lower for hydrogen than for methanol. The tradeoff is that RMFC systems operate at hotter temperatures and therefore need more advanced heat management and insulation. The waste products with these types of fuel cells are carbon dioxide and water. 

RMFC systems have reached an advanced stage of development. For instance, a small system developed by Ultracell for the United States military, has met environmental tolerance, safety, and performance goals set by the United States Army Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, and is commercially available.

Larger systems 350W to 8 MW are also available for multiple applications, such as power plant generation, backup power generation, emergency power supply, auxiliary power unit (APU) and battery range extension (electric vehicles, ships).

In contrast to diesel or gasoline generators maintenance interval of RMFC systems is usually significantly longer as no exchange of oil-filters and other engine service parts is needed. So the use of RMFC in off-grid applications (e.g. highway maintenance) and remote areas (e.g. telecom, mountains) is often preferred over diesel gensets.

The primary advantage of a vehicle with a reformer is that it does not need a pressurized gas tank to store hydrogen fuel; instead methanol is stored as a liquid. The logistic implications of this are great; pressurized hydrogen is difficult to store and produce. Also, this could help ease the public's concern over the danger of hydrogen and thereby make fuel cell-powered vehicles more attractive. However, methanol, like gasoline, is toxic and (of course) flammable. The cost of the PdAg membrane and its susceptibility to damage by temperature changes provide obstacles to adoption. 


GUMPERT NATHALIE

The Nathalie is a two-seater coupe, its line is close to the Nissan GT-R. It receives headlights with LEDs at the front, removable shutters and a light strip joining the rear lights. It is designed on a very light carbon shell which gives it high performance with a maximum speed of 300 km/h (190 mph) and a 0 to 100 km/h (62 mph) in 2.5 seconds.

The Nathalie receives four electric motors of 150 kW (200 hp), each placed in the wheels. They develop a combined power of 400 kW (540 hp) transmitted on all four wheels.

The Nathalie is equipped with a 15 kW (20 hp) fuel cell which operates on methanol and supplies a 70 kWh (250 MJ) battery. The complex system developed by RG consists of a methanol reformer which, by a catalyzed chemical reaction, divides methanol into carbon dioxide and hydrogen, the latter feeding the fuel cell which produces electricity. The fuel cell system type is indicated by the fuel cell producer as Reformed methanol fuel cell. It also increases its autonomy thanks to the recovery of energy produced during braking. It benefits from a 60-liter tank of methanol and thus a range of 600 km (370 mi) to 1,200 km (750 mi) in "eco" mode. If renewable methanol (e.g. made of municipal waste or renewable electricity) is used, a carbon-neutral operation is possible. 

 

 

 

 

 


PRODUCTION - CATALYTIC SYNTHESIS OF METHANOL FROM SYNTHESIS GAS

Methanol is produced from synthesis gas, which has carbon monoxide (CO) and hydrogen gas as its main components. An important advantage of methanol is that it can be made from any resource that can be converted first into synthesis gas. Through gasification, synthesis gas can be produced from anything that is or ever was a plant. This includes biomass, agricultural and timber waste, solid municipal waste, and a number of other feedstocks.

 

If an external source of CO2 is available, the excess hydrogen can be consumed and converted to additional methanol. The most favorable gasification processes are those in which the surplus hydrogen is “burnt” to water, during which steam reforming is accomplished through the following partial oxidation reaction:

CH4 + ½O2 -> CO + 2 H2 -> CH3OH

CH4 + O2 -> CO2 + 2 H2

The carbon dioxide and hydrogen produced in the last equation would then react with additional hydrogen from the top set of reactions to produce additional methanol. This gives the highest efficiency but maybe an additional capital cost.

Unlike the reforming process, the synthesis of methanol is highly exothermic, taking place over a catalyst bed at moderate temperatures. Most plant designs make use of this extra energy to generate the electricity needed in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

PORT OF ANTWERP JUNE 23 2021

 

The Port of Antwerp is converting a tug to methanol propulsion as part of the European Union-funded Fastwater project, which aims to demonstrate the feasibility of methanol as a sustainable marine fuel in internal combustion engines, as opposed to fuel cells.

The project was set up by a group of European maritime research and technology leaders, and is funded by the European research and innovation programme, Horizon 2020.

Partners in this project include Belgian engineering company Multi, which carried out the feasibility study for the project, Swedish shipbuilder Scandinaos, which designed the vessel’s modifications, ABC (Anglo Belgian Corporation), which will be responsible for converting the engine and for installing the methanol tanks and pipes, while the German company Heinzmann is adapting the injectors.

“This methatug is a further and also an important step in the transition towards a sustainable and CO2-neutral port that has enabled us to overcome a variety of technical and regulatory challenges. Thanks to projects such as this, we are paving the way and hope to be an example and a source of inspiration for other ports,” Jacques Vandermeiren, CEO of Port of Antwerp, said.

The European Commission approved the project in June, after an 18-month-long clearance process and detailed negotiations. Namely, Rhine-based inland navigation craft must comply with the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine’s (CCNR) regulations, which had previously forbidden the use of methanol as a marine fuel.

To receive the necessary dispensation, the methatug project was therefore submitted to the CESNI, the European committee that administers overall standards for inland navigation.

The methatug project, described by the port as the world’s first of its kind, is expected to be operational in early 2022.

“Just like with the hydrotug, the hydrogen tugboat, this project confirms our pioneering role in the field of energy transition. The ecosystem of the Antwerp port platform forms an ideal, large-scale testing ground for a project of this type,” Annick De Ridder, port alderwoman, commented.

The Port of Antwerp aims to have one hydrogen-powered tug in 2023 as part of its strategy of becoming a sustainable and CO2-neutral port.

Antwerp-based Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB) has been hired for the construction of the Hydrotug, which will be driven by combustion engines that burn hydrogen in combination with diesel - so not carbon neutral, but a useful stepping stone.

 

 

 

 

 

SVITZER & MAERSK NOVEMBER 2021 

 

Svitzer, A.P. Moller - Maersk’s world leading towage operator, today unveiled plans in November 2021 to introduce the world’s first fuel cell tug boat for harbour towage operations. Scheduled to enter operation in Svitzer’s Europe region by Q1 2024, the fuel cell tug will be running on green methanol.

 

The project aims to jointly explore the combination of methanol fuel cells, batteries, storage/handling systems, electric drives and propulsion units as a carbon neutral alternative to the conventional fossil fuelled propulsion train.

The objective is to extract and apply knowledge and operational experience of methanol feasibility from the near shore small scale tug onto larger ocean-going container vessels.

Ingrid Uppelschoten Snelderwaard, Global COO, Svitzer, is quoted as saying: "Fuel cells will be applicable as main propulsion power for tugs earlier than for larger vessels and, further, the time to build a tug is significantly less than for a container vessel."

The newbuild tug will come with a hybrid electrical propulsion system solution where fuel cells can deliver a specific amount of sustained bollard pull using fuel cells alone, adding additional power from the batteries during the short but often frequent peaks that characterises towage.

The fuel cells can also be used to charge the batteries when the tug is mobilising and when the tug is berthed, minimising the need for expensive shore side charging facilities.

Ole Graa Jakobsen, Maersk Head of Fleet Technology is quoted as saying: "Fuel cell technology could be a disruptor in the maritime technology space, promising high efficiencies and eliminating the need for substantial amounts of pilot ignition fuels while removing harmful emissions." 

Mikkel Elbek Linnet - Senior Manager +45 248211 96 Mikkel.Elbek.Linnet@maersk.com

 

 

 

REFERENCES

 

https://www.methanol.org/

 

 

 

 

 

Elizabeth Swann

 

 

ZEWT ALORS - The solar and wind powered 'Elizabeth Swann' will feature solar collectors and wind energy harvesting apparatus in an advanced configuration. Her hull configuration is ideal for mass hydrogen storage tanks, offering ranges of up to 4,000nm.

 

 

 

 

 

A central wave piercing hull stabilized by outriggers as a trimaran including:

 

a) Ultra light superstructure purposed designed to harvest energy from nature via b) and c) below,

 

- Hull drag estimates

- Interior design

- Propulsion

- Weight analysis

 

The theoretical displacement we are working towards is: 30,000 - 45,000 kilograms (target) in 5083 marine grade alloy.

 

 

 

LINKS & REFERENCE

 


https://www.blue.world/markets/maritime/

https://fuelcellsworks.com/news/breakthrough-in-the-reconversion-of-methanol-into-hydrogen-for-fuel-cells/

 

 

 

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