German boxship set for ‘climate-neutral’ synthetic natural gas trials

MAN Energy Solutions and German shipowner Wessels Marine have announced a technical showcase whereby the 2017-retrofitted Wes Amelie, a 1,036 teu feeder containership, will use liquefied synthetic natural gas (SNG) produced from renewable electrical energy as drop-in fuel. The companies are cooperating on the Wes Amelie project with Nauticor, an LNG transportation company, and charterer Unifeeder.

To demonstrate that SNG can successfully be used as shipping fuel, 20 of the 120 tons of LNG that the Wes Amelie typically uses per round trip will be replaced by what MAN described in a release yesterday as “climate-neutral” SNG. As a result, CO2 emissions are expected to decline by 56 tons for this trip.

Automobile manufacturer Audi’s Power-to-Gas facility in Werlte, where a liquefaction plant is currently under construction, will provide the SNG, which will be generated by wind energy. The SNG trip will take place after the completion of the liquefaction plant in Q2 2020.

The Wes Amelie, owned and managed by Wessels Reederei, previously made headlines in 2017 when its MAN 8L48/60B main engine was retrofitted to its current, four-stroke MAN 51/60DF unit that enables dual-fuel operation – the first such conversion in the world.

Stefan Eefting, head of MAN PrimeServ, said: “We strongly believe that a roadmap based on LNG and SNG as fuels can lead the way to a decarbonised future for shipping.”

Christian Hoepfner, managing owner of Wessels Marine, called on governments to help shipping decarbonise.

“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 shipowners,” Hoepfner said, a point of view shared by MAN’s Eefting.

“Industry and government need to make an effort now and to invest in LNG infrastructure to free the way for SNG-based, climate-neutral shipping tomorrow,” Eefting said, adding: “Any LNG-retrofitted ship can also run on SNG – that’s what we want to demonstrate:”

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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