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Damen and Caterpillar Partner to Introduce Methanol-Powered Tugs

methanol-power tug development
Damen built the all electric tug Sparky and is now working with Caterpillar for a methanol-powered tug (Damen)

Published Nov 29, 2022 5:25 PM by The Maritime Executive

Damen Shipyards announced plans to develop and build methanol-powered tugs. The shipbuilder headquartered in the Netherlands signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the joint development of a series of dual-fuel methanol-diesel powered tugs to be developed with Caterpillar, which will be responsible for the development of the pilot dual-fuel engines.

“We’re delighted to be working with Caterpillar on this ground-breaking project. It is of mutual benefit to all the parties involved to begin operating the pilot engines as soon as possible so that we can experience what it means to use methanol as a fuel in a maritime environment,” said Joost Mathôt, Director of Products at Damen’s Workboats division.

Damen highlights that the introduction of methanol-fueled propulsion systems is the logical next step in the drive towards low-emission propulsion across the company product range. Damen recently delivered the world’s first all-electric tug which is operating by the Ports of Auckland, New Zealand, and the shipbuilding says that its long-term strategy includes offering a full range of sustainable tugboats featuring both zero-emission electric and carbon-neutral methanol-powered vessels.

Under the agreement with Caterpillar, the methanol-ready CAT 3500E series dual-fuel pilot engines will be delivered to Damen by Caterpillar's Netherlands distributor Pon Power in 2024. Then the process of integration and testing will begin with Damen noting that this will be a complex undertaking involving integrating the engines with all aspects of the ship’s control, monitoring, ventilation, and other systems. It will require close cooperation with the classification societies and the shipbuilder aims to have methanol-powered vessels to be series production-ready in 2026. 

“This is an exciting technical challenge to tackle, but most importantly, it fosters our industry’s goal to reach sustainable, low carbon operations,” said Brad Johnson, Vice President and General Manager of Caterpillar Marine.

Damen’s strategy is to offer fully-electric models offering bollard pulls of 40, 60, and 80 tonnes respectively, and methanol-fueled models with 60, 80, and 100 tonnes bollard pull. Damen says that electrically-powered tugs are ideal for zero-emission operations in harbors and terminals where low-cost electricity can be easily accessed between assignments via onshore infrastructure. With its greater energy density than batteries, methanol delivers increased energy storage capacity, making it suited for longer-duration operations while remaining CO? neutral. All the vessels will be equipped with a standard Emission Reduction System developed and delivered by Damen Sustainable Solutions.