World’s first methanol-fueled towboat to launch in 2023

Jan 20, 2022

Maritime Partners, in cooperation with Elliott Bay Design Group (EBDG), e1 Marine and ABB, has announced that M/V Hydrogen One, the world’s first methanol-fueled towboat, will join Maritime Partners’ fleet and become available for charter in 2023 to meet the pressing demand for sustainable towboat operations.

Decarbonizing the towboat sector poses substantial challenges, particularly due to towboats’ inherent size, space and weight limitations. Batteries are only suitable if you operate on fixed routes and can recharge daily, and a towboat’s limited storage capacity restricts the use of pressurized or cryogenically stored gases as fuels. There are also very few dockside facilities to load such marine fuels, which severely constrains a vessel’s range and functionality.

M/V Hydrogen One will be IMO 2030 compliant, and meet all requirements of the U.S. Coast Guard’s Subchapter M regulations. The ship has been designed by Elliott Bay Design Group using proven, efficient technology throughout, from ABB’s electrical power distribution and automation to e1 Marine’s methanol-to-hydrogen fuel cell, and it will be able to perform at standard operational speeds for up to 550 miles before it needs to refuel.

Methanol is a common towboat cargo, and it is available in 88 of the world’s top 100 ports. This availability enables operators to refuel safely almost anywhere without the need for costly diversions. M/V Hydrogen One’s use of e1 Marine’s reformer technology generates hydrogen from methanol on-demand, which also makes it considerably safer than transferring and storing hydrogen directly, and the ship’s crew will require minimal additional training to use the technology.

“Shipowners have been understandably reluctant to commit to low-carbon fuels until the infrastructure is available to refuel their vessels,” said Austin Sperry, co-founder and chief operating officer at Maritime Partners. “The M/V Hydrogen One solves that problem by using methanol, which is safe and readily available worldwide. When the M/V Hydrogen One joins our fleet of 1,600 vessels, it will not only provide excellent emissions reduction capabilities but highly functional, reliable and cost-effective operations.”

“The U.S. towboat market is one of the most traditional in the world, so it’s important to recognize what this represents: the first step in a shift from diesel electric to methanol electric, and a major advancement toward zero emissions,” said Dave Lee at ABB Marine & Ports. “Governed by ABB’s power management and distribution technology, the system consumes methanol fuel on-demand. This philosophy is much more efficient than a traditional towboat, where you need both main engines as well as a generator online at all times. Through this design and our technology we’re enabling not only huge operational and cost efficiencies, but making the most environmentally friendly mode of transport even more sustainable.”

“Converting methanol to hydrogen reduces the CO2 output and our reformer technology eliminates the complexities of direct fueling and storage of gas marine fuels,” said Robert Schluter, managing director at e1 Marine. “By producing hydrogen at the point of consumption from a mixture of methanol and water, e1 Marine’s system enables the safe, efficient and economic use of hydrogen as a marine fuel. The technology is ideal for anything that requires continuous power over extended periods, including workboats and medium-range passenger vessels, or to provide backup power in ports and harbors.”

“M/V Hydrogen One is the model for what is likely to be the only practical and commercially available technology that will enable smaller vessels to run for multiple days on a single fuel load and without the need for dedicated refueling facilities,” said Mike Complita, principal and vice president of strategic expansion at Elliott Bay Design Group. “Our naval architects have optimized the balance between reformers, fuel cells and batteries to maximize range and power while minimizing operational costs.