Rolls-Royce and Sanlorenzo team up for methanol propulsion for luxury yachts

Rolls-Royce and Italian yacht builder sanlorenzo project to develop and build a large motor yacht with a methanol engine propulsion system capable of carbon neutral operation with ‘green’ methanol.

The two companies announced an exclusive memorandum of understanding to this effect for yachts between 40 and 70 meters on the eve of the opening of the Cannes Yachting Festival 2022. Powered by two mtu methanol engines based on the 4000 series, the sanlorenzo yacht is set to embark on her maiden voyage in 2026.

“We are making shipping more environmentally friendly and more climate friendly, and this agreement is a big step in the right direction,” said Denise KurtulusVice President of Global Marine at Rolls-Royce fuel systems“Synthetic methanol, produced from electricity generated from renewable sources, is the obvious fuel of the future for many marine applications, including yacht propulsion.” Indeed, methanol is an easy-to-handle liquid and people are already used to handling it since it is already available in ports today. ‘sanlorenzo is one of the most innovative yacht builders, making it our partner of choice for this project,” she added.

Massimo PerottiExecutive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of sanlorenzo, said: “The introduction of innovations and technologies to reduce the environmental impact of yachts has long been a focus of the group’s research and development department. Signing the agreement with Rolls-Royce and its mtu brand for the integration of methanol propulsion systems on our superyachts represents a memorable moment for our Group, as it gives extraordinary acceleration to our responsible path and broadens our horizons: thanks to the navy’s use of methanol as a fuel for internal combustion engines, which allows powerful and carbon-neutral propulsion, sanlorenzo will be able to give the real answer to the demand for sustainability in the yachting sector. I thank Rolls-Royce for choosing sanlorenzo as a partner for the joint development of technology that will change the paradigm of the yachting industry.’

Green methanol is climate-friendly and carbon-neutral because it is produced from solar or wind energy: The first step is to take hydrogen and synthesize it into methanol (CH3HO) using carbon and air oxygen. The carbon in the form of CO2 is released into the air during combustion – but no more than was removed during the production of the fuel. As a result, the cycle is carbon neutral. “It allows us to create a radically different yacht ownership experience,” Kurtulus said. Particulate and nitrogen oxide emissions are also far lower than diesel engines, keeping NOx within limits without an exhaust-treating SCR unit.

The methanol engine, which is expected to be spark ignition, will be based on the winning 4000 mtu series. “Our many years of experience and extensive expertise in mobile and stationary gas engines will give us a head start in development,” said Dr. Otto PreissCOO and Chief Technology Officer at Rolls-Royce fuel systems division. “We will have in our portfolio methanol propulsion systems for other maritime applications as well as for yachts, for example for commercial shipping. These will be part of our ecosystem with sustainable fuels, which we are currently building. The ecosystem will also include applications powered by fuel cells as well as the electrolysis of green hydrogen, the basic ingredient of green methanol,” Preiss continued.

“We are delighted to see Italian shipyards, which are prominent in the yacht market, showing a strong interest in sustainable technologies. This collaboration with sanlorenzo demonstrates that the Italian yacht building industry plays a leading role in protecting the climate and the environment”, emphasizes Gianluca Bononi. He is Deputy Director of the Marine Power Systems business unit and Managing Director of Rolls-Royce Solutions Italia based in spezia on the Ligurian coast, the heart of the Italian yacht building industry.

The plan is to build a large sanlorenzo luxury yacht adapted to the new type of propulsion system and its requirements. Both partners see the extra effort as difficult but doable: as the energy density of methanol is around 50% lower than that of diesel, the fuel tanks have to be around twice as large to give the ship the same range as with diesel propulsion. Safety requirements are potentially lower than other fuels and technologies because methanol is non-toxic. “From a technical point of view, a methanol engine is technically the ideal compromise for the future,” said Denise Kurtulus with conviction.

Typically, developers expect the power output of a methanol propulsion system to be about one-third less than that of a diesel system of the same size and mass. “Actually, it’s not very important,” Kurtulus said. “This is because larger and heavier engines are more likely to be fitted in large yachts of 40-50 meters in length than in smaller vessels, and yacht owners who want to be climate friendly and environmentally friendly generally do not seek to wring out the last ounce of power. We are witnessing a trend reversal in the market. In many cases, engine power alone will no longer be the benchmark. Instead, there will be more and more customers who want to do their part to protect the climate and now we can offer them a solution too,” concluded Ms Kurtulus.

Alongside the Cannes Yacht Festival, Rolls-Royce will showcase new marine propulsion, automation and mtu service solutions – including methanol engines and fuel cell systems – under the slogan “Pioneering the journey to net zero at SMM, the international maritime industry trade show, in Hamburg, Germanyfrom 6 to September 9, 2022.

About Rolls-Royce Holdings plc

Rolls-Royce is the pioneer of power that matters to connect, power and protect society. We are committed to achieving net zero greenhouse gas emissions in our operations by 2030 (excluding product testing) and have joined the United Nations Race to Zero campaign in 2020, affirming our ambition to play a fundamental role to enable the sectors in which we operate to achieve net zero carbon by 2050.

Rolls-Royce fuel systems has its headquarters at Friedrichshafen in the south Germany and employs around 9,000 people. The product portfolio includes mtu-branded high-speed engines and propulsion systems for ships, power generation, heavy land vehicles, rail and defense and for the oil and gas industry, as well as systems diesel and gas and battery containers for mission critical, emergency and continuous power, combined heat and power and micro-grids and is actively engaged in the development of climate-neutral solutions.

Rolls-Royce has customers in over 150 countries, including over 400 airline and rental customers, 160 armed forces and navies and over 5,000 power and nuclear customers.

The underlying annual revenue was £10.95 billion in 2021, current operating income was £414 million and we invested £1.18 billion on research and development. We also support a global network of 28 University Technology Centers, which put Rolls-Royce engineers at the forefront of scientific research.

Rolls-Royce Holdings plc is a listed company (LSE: RR., ADR: RYCEY, LEI: 213800EC7997ZBLZJH69).


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