Rolls-Royce and Sanlorenzo team up for methanol propulsion

Two men shaking hands in front of Sanlorenzo poster after announcing agreement.

Italian yacht builder Sanlorenzo has teamed up with Rolls-Royce to develop and build a large motor yacht with a methanol engine propulsion system able to run carbon neutrally on ‘green’ methanol.

The two companies announced an exclusive memorandum of understanding for yachts between 40 and 70 metres on the eve of the opening of the 2022 Cannes Yachting Festival (5 September 2022).

Green methanol is climate-friendly and carbon-neutral because it is produced using solar or wind power. Powered by two mtu methanol engines based on the Series 4000, the Sanlorenzo yacht is expected to undertake its maiden voyage in 2026.

“We’re making shipping more environmentally friendly and easier on the climate, and this agreement is a big step forward in the right direction,” says Denise Kurtulus, vice president of global marine at Rolls-Royce Power Systems. “Synthetic methanol, produced using electricity generated from renewable sources, is the obvious fuel of the future for many maritime applications – not least yacht propulsion. This is because methanol is a liquid which is easy to manage, and people are already used to handling it because 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.”

It’s said the plan is to build a large Sanlorenzo luxury yacht tailored to the new type of propulsion system and its requirements. However, in general, 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.

“In reality, that isn’t terribly important,” explains Kurtulus. “This is because larger, heavier engines are more likely to be installed in large yachts of 40 to 50 metres in length than in smaller vessels, and yacht owners who want to be climate-friendly and go easy on the environment aren’t generally looking to wring out the last ounce of power. We’re seeing a trend reversal in the market. In many cases, engine power output in and of itself will no longer be the yardstick. Instead, there will be more and more customers who want to do their bit to protect the climate, and now we can also offer them a solution, too.”

Rolls-Royce Sanlorenzo Methanol Yacht

“Our many years of experience and our extensive expertise in mobile and stationary gas engines will give us a head start in development,” adds Dr Otto Preiss, COO and chief technology officer at Rolls-Royce’s Power Systems division. “We will have methanol-powered propulsion systems in our portfolio for other maritime applications as well as yachts, for example, commercial shipping. These will be part of our ecosystem with sustainable fuels, that we’re currently building. The ecosystem will also include fuel-cell-powered applications as well as electrolysis of green hydrogen, the basic ingredient for green methanol.”

Massimo Perotti, executive chairman and CEO of Sanlorenzo, says: “The introduction of innovations and technologies to reduce the environmental impact of yachts has long been the focus of the group’s research and development department. The subscription of the agreement with Rolls-Royce and its brand mtu for the integration of methanol propulsion systems on our superyachts represents for our group a memorable moment, because it gives an extraordinary acceleration to our responsible path and widens our horizons.

“Thanks to the marine use of methanol as a fuel for combustion engines, which allows carbon-neutral powerful propulsion, Sanlorenzo will be able to give the true 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 a technology that is going to change the paradigm of the yachting industry.”

In parallel with the Cannes Yacht Festival, Rolls-Royce will be presenting new mtu marine propulsion, automation and 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, Germany (6-9 September 2022).

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