Chartwell Marine has won a £320k Innovate UK Smart Grant. The grant will enable Chartwell and consortium partners—Boat Electric & Electronics and Engineered Marine Systems—to develop and test the feasibility of a market-first methanol-fuelled vessel design, with applications in the offshore wind, commercial workboat and leisure sectors.
Methanol fuel presents a significant opportunity to decarbonize in a maritime industry which is confronted with the debate over sustainable fuel alternatives, as it can be produced from biomass and can carry a near-zero carbon footprint. Whereas ammonia has sparked concerns about its toxicity to wildlife and pure hydrogen presents continued feasibility challenges, methanol can be stored safely and effectively in standard atmospheric conditions, and spills have little adverse effect on the local aquatic environment, the company suggests.
Though half as energy dense as diesel, methanol can take advantage of reforming technology alongside fuel-cells to create energy with low carbon emissions. Methanol reforming technologies are currently available commercially; however, they have been largely untested in commercial or leisure vessel design.
In applying the technology to a medium-sized vessel with Chartwell’s signature multi-hull design philosophy, the company is well-placed to use the learning enabled by the Smart Grant to open a path to methanol’s feasibility as a fuel in wider maritime contexts— namely offshore wind support, alongside the commercial workboat and leisure vessel industries.