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  • 2021 March 9 12:11

    Large-scale methanol testing to begin at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre

    Major tests of methanol as a marine fuel will soon begin at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre in Aalborg, Denmark, according to the company's release. Working closely with Man Energy Solutions and other partners, Alfa Laval will explore the possibility of running the centre’s four-stroke, 2 mw diesel engine on methanol – without modifications or another pilot fuel. The testing is the third stage in an ongoing research project funded by Danish EUDP (Energy Technology Development and Demonstration Program).

    Initiated two years ago, the EUDP-funded methanol project partners Alfa Laval and MAN Energy Solutions with the Danish Technological Institute (DTI), Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and biofuel producer Nordic Green.

    Through joint research, the consortium seeks to develop a methanol fuel system that can adapt to today’s marine diesel engines. Methanol, which is abundant and clean-burning, is one of the most promising fossil-free fuels available for future shipping. 

    “At present, combusting methanol requires a pilot ignition with fuel oil,” explains Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Vice President Technology Development, Alfa Laval Marine Division. “This necessitates two fuel lines and different types of fuel tanks on board. If methanol from renewable sources could be burned directly in standard compression engines, it would offer a shortcut to carbon-neutral shipping.” 

    “The move to clean-burning methanol will be a crucial step in decarbonizing the shipping industry,” agrees Klaus Petersen, Engine Specialist, Performance & Optimization at MAN Energy Solutions. “Through our collaboration with Alfa Laval and the other project partners, we hope to make that step significantly easier for vessels to take.” 

    Burning methanol in an unmodified diesel engine will require new engine software, which must be developed through engine testing and work with combustion modelling.  Early tests of the concept on smaller engines at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU) and later at the Danish Technological Institute (DTI) showed promising results. This led to a small-scale experiment with methanol at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre, using a single cylinder of the centre’s 2 MW marine engine. 

    Once the fuel arrives, the first task will be determining how to handle it at scale. Because methanol is a liquid at room temperature, it can be stored in unpressurized tanks. However, a low flashpoint of 7°C makes methanol highly volatile – despite the challenge of igniting it through compression. After working out the handling practicalities, broader tests of methanol in the unmodified engine will commence in April. 

    About Alfa Laval

    Alfa Laval is active in the areas of Energy, Marine, and Food & Water, offering its expertise, products, and service to a wide range of industries in some 100 countries. The company is committed to optimizing processes, creating responsible growth, and driving progress – always going the extra mile to support customers in achieving their business goals and sustainability targets.  Alfa Laval’s innovative technologies are dedicated to purifying, refining, and reusing materials, promoting more responsible use of natural resources. They contribute to improved energy efficiency and heat recovery, better water treatment, and reduced emissions. Alfa Laval has 16,700 employees. Annual sales in 2020 were SEK 41.5 billion (approx. EUR 4 billion). The company is listed on Nasdaq OMX. 


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