The First Methanol-powered Vessel in Russia

Photo: BunkerIndex

The "Ruskhim" group is implementing a project in the Arctic for the construction of a large gas-chemical complex (GCC). It has developed a project for cargo ship that operates on methanol as a fuel and has contracted construction of 3 vessels at foreign shipyards. These will be Russia's first methanol-powered ship.

A total of 3 ice-class cargo ships will be built with the entire series scheduled for delivery by 2029, coinciding with the company's plan to commission the gas-chemical complex in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug in Russia.

We have developed a shuttle tanker project capable of transporting the methanol produced at our plant and operating on the same methanol, thereby improving the vessel's economic performance and minimizing its impact on the fragile ecology of the Arctic. The cargo capacity for methanol is about 19 thousand tons.

noted representatives of the "Ruskhim" group.

The ship's dimensions include a length of 192 meters, a width of 29 meters, a draft of 7 meters, and a deadweight of 18 thousand tons.

Here are some features of using methanol as fuel for marine power plants:

  • Fire hazard. Methanol is characterized by a low flash point, requiring the creation of a protective atmosphere in the working area.
  • Explosion hazard. The concentration of vapors in the air of the working area for methanol and ethanol is higher than for liquefied natural gas and traditional types of petroleum fuels.
  • Impact on human health. Methanol is a systemic poison and has a detrimental effect on the human nervous system.
  • To reduce the risk of fires and poisoning of personnel when using methanol and ethanol, safety procedures should be followed, and the crew should have personal protective equipment.

Initially, three tankers will be sufficient for Ruskhim to transport methanol from the Nenets Autonomous Okrug to Murmansk, where it will be transshipped for export using a raid transshipment complex with a capacity of about 120 thousand tons, a project also undertaken by the company. Methanol will then be exported to China and possibly other countries. The primary transportation route is expected to be via the Suez Canal, with the Northern Sea Route also considered, accounting for ice restrictions.

Responding to questions regarding the profitability of transporting methanol via the Northern Sea Route to China, company representatives stated that they anticipate it to be an effective logistical scheme, particularly compared to alternative export routes currently in use.

Statistics of synthetic methanol

Current global synthetic methanol production capacities exceed 120 million tons per year, with methanol storage capacities deployed in over 100 ports worldwide. Around a third of this volume is exported as industrial goods (according to consulting firms' estimates). The use of methanol as ship fuel has gained popularity in recent years, with methanol engines, fuel delivery technologies, and bunkering solutions already commercially available. Leading shipping companies such as AP Moller-Maersk, CMA CGM, COSCO, Methanex Waterfront Shipping, and Stena have either placed orders for such vessels or are in the process of deciding. Approximately 200 orders for methanol-powered ships are currently placed in shipyards, with further growth as suggested by experts. Attention is also given to the development of bunkering ships with "green" methanol.

However, such projects are currently absent in Russia due to a lack of shipbuilding capacities and expertise in methanol-powered ship engine creation. Maritime methanol transshipment is also undeveloped at present. Nonetheless, methanol production in Russia exceeds domestic market demand by almost twice. Therefore, it's possible that global trends in expanding methanol use as ship fuel will eventually impact the Russian industry.

Despite tightened sanctions, "Ruskhim" has not halted the implementation of its gas-chemical complex construction project in the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. The design phase of the gas-chemical complex is already complete, and the company is currently undergoing engineering preparations. Methanol production with a capacity of 1.8 million tons per year will be carried out at the raw material base of the Kumzhinsky and Korovinsky fields. The initial phase involves constructing a methanol plant and developing the Kumzhinsky field with a production volume of 2 billion cubic meters of gas per year. By the project's second phase (by 2031), expansion of the complex and increased gas production to 4 billion cubic meters per year is planned. To develop fields with estimated reserves of 200 billion cubic meters, the company is seeking partnerships among Russian oil and gas companies.

Based on InfoTek