Ghent University is taking the lead in driving the shipping industry towards a greener future


Fossil fuels continue to dominate in the shipping industry. This could very well change over time. Researchers from Ghent University and diesel engine manufacturer Anglo Belgian Corporation have launched Methatug, the first ever green methanol-fuelled tugboat, in the port of Antwerp.

Besides legislation, technical feasibility is a particular obstacle to greener shipping. This energy must be renewable, capable of being produced on a large scale and suitable for storage. This already rules out solar and wind power. Density, the volume the fuel occupies, also plays an important role. Electricity takes up as much as 20 and hydrogen 10 times more volume than diesel or petrol.

Green methanol, on the other hand, does offer a solution, as it meets all the requirements. Green methanol offers a wealth of benefits. For instance, you can produce it from various renewable sources: either from biomass, or by mixing CO₂ with green hydrogen or by extracting green hydrogen with carbon from biomass. Furthermore, it is half as energy dense as diesel and is relatively cheap because some of the existing diesel engines can simply be modified, while others can be retained. This makes it possible to sail on two fuels (dual fuel).

The transition to 100% methanol-powered engines from diesel is on the horizon within the next 5-10 years.