Optimal design and operation of maritime energy systems based on renewable methanol and closed carbon cycles

Bernhard Thaler*, Fayas Malik Kanchiralla, Stefan Posch, Gerhard Pirker, Andreas Wimmer, Selma Brynolf, Nicole Wermuth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The phasing out of fossil fuels in the shipping sector is of key importance for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Synthetic fuels based on renewable energy are a promising option for a sustainable maritime sector, with renewable methanol being one of the most widely considered energy carriers. However, the availability of renewable methanol is still limited and the costs associated with it are significantly higher than for conventional fuels, also because fuel synthesis must rely on carbon dioxide as a resource. Through the use of onboard carbon capture, the release of carbon dioxide during combustion can be avoided, and this closed cycle reduces the need for carbon sources. This paper investigates such a scenario by analyzing overall ship energy systems that use internal combustion engines with connected pre-combustion and post-combustion carbon capture technologies. The effect of these technologies on the techno-economic performance of a fully renewable energy system is investigated by setting up a mixed-integer optimization framework for the optimal design and operation of ship propulsion systems. The propulsion demand for the chosen case study consists of a typical operational profile of a ferry operating in the Baltic Sea. Comparison of the capture cases to a system solely based on renewable methanol reveals significant cost advantages of the closed carbon cycle systems. The baseline scenario has nearly 20% lower annual costs, with total capture rates of 90% in the post-combustion case and around 40% in the pre-combustion case. An extensive sensitivity analysis shows that these cost advantages are robust against various technological and economic boundary conditions. In the pre-combustion case, process heat demand reduction in combination with increased engine heat supply might enable higher capture rates beyond 90%. The results indicate that combining renewable fuels with onboard carbon capture creates opportunities for cost-effective, sustainable shipping.
Original languageEnglish
Article number116064
JournalEnergy Conversion and Management
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


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