A joint EU-Japan project aims to reduce the cost of green methanol

Methanol-powered ships, like the tanker above, could help decarbonize shipping (Image from Stena file)

Posted on July 15, 2022 at 01:51 by

The Maritime Executive

A joint European/Japanese research project aims to reduce the energy requirements and manufacturing costs of green methanol, Maersk’s future fuel of choice and one of the main candidates for the decarbonisation of deep-sea shipping.


Methanol can be synthesized from carbon dioxide and hydrogen at high temperatures and then converted into methanol for use as fuel. If the carbon comes from CO2 capture and the hydrogen feedstock is produced from renewable energy, the product – green methanol – is considered net zero fuel.


However, its production requires a lot of energy. CO2 is a stable, unreactive molecule, and it takes a push (a catalyst and a lot of heat) to make it react with hydrogen. In 2018, researchers at Penn State found a way to do this using a palladium-copper catalyst at a relatively cool temperature of 350 to 480 degrees Fahrenheit, but it’s still quite hot. Maintaining this type of temperature requires heating on an industrial scale, which increases energy consumption and the cost of production.



Courtesy of Laurelin


Project Laurelin, a four-year international research initiative, hopes to reduce this cost. Its experts come from Belgium, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom, and they combine their efforts to study multiple combinations of catalysts and reaction chambers in search of the best arrangement.


“Reducing the cost of producing e-methanol would lead to increased opportunities to use it as a fuel. This would directly benefit society through reduced GHG emissions and costs, creating more jobs and jobs. wealth,” explained Professor Teruoki Tago of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.


The team will test over 100 different catalyst materials and three reactor technologies (microwave heating, magnetic induction and plasma induction). “Catalysts are the key to making methanol the main product, minimizing the production of unwanted complex mixtures,” explains Adolfo Benedito Borrás, responsible for the technical coordination of the project.


If successful, Project Laurelin’s efforts would complement the search for greater efficiency in green hydrogen production and help increase the availability of green methanol for shipping.


The initiative has approximately $4.8 million in funding from the EU and additional funding from Japan.