Saturday, February 24, 2024
Maritime Propulsion

December 8, 2023

ORNL, Caterpillar Collaborate on Methanol as Fuel for Marine Engines

Credit: Genevieve Martin, ORNL/U.S. Dept. of Energy.

A collaboration between Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) and Caterpillar Inc. will investigate using methanol as an alternative fuel source for marine vessels.

Members of the research team kicked off the project with the installation of a 6-cylinder engine at the Department of Energy’s National Transportation Research Center at ORNL.

The ORNL and Caterpillar collaboration focuses on a four-stroke internal combustion marine engine that will be modified to run on methanol.

Although methanol has many advantages, it is more difficult to ignite than diesel. Under the terms of the agreement, ORNL researchers will work with Caterpillar over the next few years to identify, develop and test hardware configurations and operating strategies required to maximize use of methanol in engines retrofitted for methanol.

New engine designs will also be considered, and several engine combustion strategies will be explored including dual-fuel, dimethyl ether reforming and spark-ignited prechambers.

“We look forward to working with Caterpillar to develop near-term combustion strategies that can be retrofitted on existing engines to realize immediate reductions in carbon emissions. We also will develop long-term combustion strategies for new engine technologies that achieve 100% displacement of diesel fuel with methanol,” said ORNL’s Jim Szybist, section head for Propulsion Science. “The research we conduct over the next few years will be a significant contributor to decarbonization efforts globally.”

In addition to DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Office, the collaboration is funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration.