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Interest in wind power grows to help shipping achieve COemission targets


By : Paul Stuart-Smith, contributor


How best to comply with the requirements of the sulphur cap was one of the topics most hotly debated at Posidonia last week. Whether to fit scrubbers; the availability, cost and compatibility of high- and low-sulphur fuel oils; the role of liquefied natural gas (LNG), or perhaps liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), all featured prominently during panel discussions.

Finding solutions to the logistical and operational issues raised by these questions will be critical for the industry over the next 18 months. But looking beyond 2020, the longer term and more difficult technical challenge will be to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from ships in line with the goals agreed at the meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in April. The key target is to reduce overall CO₂ emissions for the sector by at least 50% by 2050 with the further aim of phasing them out entirely as soon as possible thereafter. “Wind propulsion will have an important role to play in achieving the IMO’s goals,” predicts Gavin Allwright, speaking to Fairplay last Friday. Allwright runs the International Windship Association (IWSA), a membership organisation that promotes wind propulsion for commercial shipping. He said we are witnessing “the start of a transition from the question, ‘is wind propulsion credible?’ to an understanding that it will be part of the future propulsion mix”. Allwright sees “the great opportunity wind propulsion has to reduce pressure on our dwindling carbon budget”, and estimates that on average it will “knock at least 10–30% off fuel consumption and under the right conditions much more”. According to Allwright, the potential importance of wind propulsion as part of the solution for achieving the IMO’s GHG emission goals is underscored by the findings of a number of recent research papers setting out future fuel options for shipping. The most recent paper, from DNV GL, “Assessment of selected alternative fuels and technologies”, published at the beginning of June, aims to help owners’ decision making when selecting a fuel for new ships. The DNV GL report follows in the wake of the International Transport Forum (ITF) paper, ‘Decarbonising Maritime Transport by 2035’, published in March, and ‘Zero Emission Vessels: What needs to be done?’ issued by the Sustainable Shipping Initiative (SSI) in May. What is clear from all three research papers is that there are no easy solutions. The ITF report asserts that an almost complete decarbonisation of shipping could be achieved by 2035 using currently known technologies. This could see hydrogen and ammonia providing 70% of the fuel mix, biofuels 22%, and LNG 3% with a residual 3% coming from fossil fuels but, the report warns, financial incentives will be “essential to reduce the price gap between conventional and more sustainable fuel options”.

The SSI report also sees potential for use of hydrogen and ammonia but places more emphasis on advanced biofuels, while acknowledging that there are serious questions about their availability and sustainability. The DNV GL report recognises that “all alternative fuel options are accompanied by benefits and challenges”. Simon Bennett, deputy secretary-general of the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), speaking at an ITF meeting in Leipzig recently, stated that, “[the IMO] targets can realistically only be achieved with the development and global roll-out of genuine zero CO₂ fuels,” but that this would require “radical and as yet unproven technologies such as hydrogen fuel cells using ammonia or methanol, or batteries powered using renewable energy”. He believes that “LNG or biofuels will play an important part in the transition” but that ICS only “really sees these as interim solutions that won’t deliver the ambitious targets which IMO has now set for 2050”. The DNV GL report sets out some of the challenges – alluded to by Bennett – of finding alternative fuels with significantly lower CO₂ emissions than existing fossil fuels. By far the best option would be hydrogen, but only if produced through electrolysis from water using cheap renewable energy. At present most hydrogen is produced from methane, which causes more “well to tank” CO₂ emissions (measured in grams per megajoule) than are emitted by producing and burning high-sulphur fuel oil, according to a chart in the DNV GL report. The same would be true for methanol produced from natural gas. Third generation biofuels produced by algae have the drawback of requiring large amounts of fertiliser to allow the algae to grow, thus undoing most of the environmental benefits of what would otherwise be a carbon neutral process (the algae ‘eat’ CO₂ to produce biodiesel or other fuels). The DNV GL report also views batteries as impractical based on current technology, while it sees “political, societal, and regulatory barriers” to nuclear propulsion. Regarding wind, the report states that “wind-assisted propulsion could potentially reduce fuel consumption, especially when used for slow ships”. It references a major 2017 wind propulsion study by CE Delft, which “concludes that there is significant saving potential in wind-assisted propulsion on large tankers and bulk carriers”, DNV GL concedes that “the business case [for wind] remains difficult”, mostly due to uncertainty regarding “the availability of wind and therefore the operation area of wind-assisted vessels”. Nevertheless, wind-assisted propulsion could achieve fuel “savings of 15–20%” or more, according to Gerd-Michael Würsig, business director, alternative fuels, at DNV GL.              

Allwright is encouraged by the increasing interest in researching and testing of wind propulsion solutions, particularly of Flettner Rotor Sails. In April, MS Viking Grace became the first passenger ferry to be fitted with the tube shaped technology. It followed in the footsteps of the ro-ro vessel MV ESTRADEN that operates with two Norsepower rotor sails fitted in November 2014 and November 2015. Flettner rotors have also been installed by Anemoi Marine Technologies on the MV AFROS, a 64,000 dwt bulk carrier operating in the Pacific. Next up will be a 109,647 dwt LONG RANGE 2 (LR2) product tanker owned by Maersk Tankers on which a 30 m tall, 5 m wide Norsepower rotor sail is being fitted. The project is run in conjunction with the United Kingdom’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and Shell Shipping & Maritime. Sea trials are expected to continue until the end of 2019.By November, Allwright expects a total of 14 Flettner rotor sails to be fitted on six different vessels around the world. A wide range of other research and development projects, not just for rotors but also for hard and soft sails, are currently under way, some of which are summarised in the CE Delft report. These include an Auxiliary Sail Propulsion System (a rigid sail) being designed in the United Kingdom for bulk carriers; the Wind Challenger Project, led by the University of Tokyo in conjunction with a number of large Japanese shipping companies to develop a large rigid sail system capable of driving a Capesize vessel; and the Norwegian Vindskip Project that is designing the hull of a vessel to act as an air foil. IWSA is keen to build on this momentum by encouraging a further expansion of the number of demonstration vessels. One of the barriers to uptake of wind propulsion cited in the CE Delft report is access to capital and a reluctance by owners to invest in unproven technologies.

To overcome this, IWSA members are looking to develop a system of lease financing that could see technology providers charging a performance-based fee for use of their equipment to avoid the need for upfront capital expenditure. Another key development, discussed at the IWSA Annual General Meeting held in Rotterdam two weeks ago, is the evolution of IWSA Hubs or centres of excellence to spur innovation. The first of these is expected to be “IWSA Europe Atlantique” based around the Port of Nantes Saint-Nazaire. Shipbuilder STX France is expected to be a key member. Other IWSA hubs are planned for the South Pacific and Northern Europe (Germany and Holland) with hubs in the United States and Asia to follow. Clearly, much work still needs to be done for wind to become a major means of propulsion for the shipping industry. However, given the scale of the challenges facing the development of alternative fuels and their potential costs, Allwright is confident that we are witnessing the dawn of a new Age of Sail.

Source: Fairplay-HIS

 

 

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