Proman Stena Bulk, a joint venture between Stena Bulk and methanol producer Proman, recently completed the first barge-to-ship methanol bunkering on the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The tankers Stena Pro Marine and Stena Prosperous were re-fueled with methanol via barge while discharging clean petroleum products at a terminal in the Port of Houston in early April.

Stena Pro Marine was bunkered with 1,408 MT of methanol, and Stena Prosperous was refueled with 1,203 MT during the operation.

The barge bunkering operation was conducted jointly with Kirby Corp. The ability to refuel both vessels with methanol while they were alongside demonstrates the ease and minimal infrastructure requirements associated with methanol as a marine fuel, as well as its widespread availability, company officials said.

“Completing the first barge-to-ship methanol bunkering on the U.S. Gulf Coast is a tremendous achievement for the Proman Stena Bulk joint venture,” Anita Gajadhar, executive director, marketing, logistics and shipping for Proman, said in a statement. “The Port of Houston is a major global cargo hub with significant latent methanol storage capacity. These qualities made it a natural testbed for our first U.S. ship-to-ship bunkering.

“Kirby was pleased to be the service provider for this job,” said Kirby Marine group president Christian O’Neil. “It was a natural for us. We have extensive expertise with methanol as a cargo, with conventional bunkering, and with barge-to-ship lightering of all manner of products. We are committed to remaining a leader in energy transportation, regardless of the form that energy takes. We look forward to doing this again and again in Houston and beyond.”

Methanol is widely available in the Port of Houston. Due to the presence of major petrochemicals hubs and significant storage capacity, more than 275,000 MT of methanol is available at the port. 

The Port of Houston said it aims to become carbon neutral in the next 30 years. Key to the port’s strategy is the deployment of alternative fuels and clean energy sources.

The bunkering also supports U.S. commitments to cut methane emissions by 30% by 2030 under the Global Methane Pledge, which was announced at the COP26 climate summit in 2021. Methanol as a marine fuel supports the ambitions of the pledge to cut back on methane emissions across the energy value chain in the near term.

Currently available conventional methanol, produced from natural gas, virtually eliminates SOx and particulate matter, cuts NOx by 80%, and reduces tank-to-wake CO2 emissions from the vessel’s commercial operations by up to 15% compared to conventional marine fuels. By using methanol, Proman Stena Bulk said its vessels are futureproofed against every incoming emissions target, as greater quantities of low-carbon and green methanol become available for blending and bunkering in the near future.

Production of green methanol from sustainable sources such as sustainable bio-mass or renewable energy is growing and highly scalable. Proman said it is investing in its own low-carbon and green methanol production capabilities, including a new 100,000-ton-per-year methanol facility in development in North America. The project is currently being constructed with a target start of operations in 2025. The facility will produce bio-methanol from non-recyclable forestry residues and municipal solid waste and will substantially contribute to the circular economy.

Rotterdam was the site of Proman Stena Bulk’s first barge-to-ship methanol bunkering in August 2022, when the Stena Pro Patria took on the fuel during a regularly scheduled port call.