Glycerol answer to low carbon marine fuel

The marine industry is challenged by rising fuel costs, tightening emissions regulations and managing pollution risk. One solution may be the use of glycerol, (commonly ‘glycerine’), as a fuel for marine diesel engines.

By K.Steiner-Dicks on Nov 20, 2013

The Technology Strategy Board ‘GLEAMS’ project is currently investigating technology by which marine vessels will be able to surpass the very highest regulatory standards required for sulphur and nitrous oxide emissions, as well as slashing their carbon emissions and potentially reducing fuel costs.

There is a global over-supply of glycerol, a by-product of the expanding biofuel industry. The characteristics of glycerol make it attractive for marine applications according to current research including that it burns with higher efficiency than diesel and at very low NOx emissions; non-toxic, water soluble and nearly impossible to ignite accidentally, readily retro fitted and engine technology proven through use in combined heat and power plant.

Although a greater volume of glycerol would have to be carried for a given range its low-hazard nature would allow additional storage in the hull space of many vessels.

Although glycerol can be used in diesel engines of any size, until a comprehensive distribution network is established GLEAMS will concentrate upon markets where limited volumes of fuel are required and bunkering typically takes place at a single location. Potential early adopters could include: offshore support craft; ferries; survey vessels; port/pilot boats; fishing vessels; dredgers; marine police and other small commercial and leisure marine craft.

Potential end users and other interested parties can engage with the GLEAMS project by joining the ‘GLEAMS Interest Group’ through an online forum where members will be invited to discuss relevant topics and project outcomes.