Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Bulk Freight, RoRo Ferries and Logistics All Have an Interest in Clean Fuel Bunkering Project

Technology Groups Work with Ocean Carriers on Zero Emissions Energy Distribution
Shipping News Feature
SCANDINAVIA – Bulk ocean carrier and freight terminal group Grieg Star and RoRo ferry and logistics outfit DFDS are two of the partners in an all Nordic collaboration busily addressing the conundrum of cutting CO2 emissions from the industry. Along with technology group Wärtsilä, energy firm Equinor and engineering groups Aker Solutions and Kvaerner, the six publicised their last six months work on their ZEEDS (Zero Emission Energy Distribution at Sea) project.

Inspired by a common objective rooted in the UN's Sustainability Goals to fast-forward the switch to carbon-neutral shipping, ZEEDS is presented as a game-changing vision for green fuel bunkering infrastructure in Northern Europe. The concept was explained this week in Oslo at both the Horizons conference and workshops event, and the Nor-Shipping Ocean Leadership meeting.

ZEEDS envisages an ‘ecosystem’ of offshore clean energy hubs strategically located close to Northern Europe's busiest shipping corridors capable of producing, storing and distributing renewable fuels to vessels in transit. The hubs are designed as gravity-based structures in shallow regions and potentially semi-submersible floaters in deeper water, with the bunkering buoys either cemented to the seabed or floating in deep water.

Clean energy for topside fuel production would be supplied by around 75 large wind turbines per hub. Solar and wave technologies are also potentially available in the push to harness energy from the ocean. Wärtsilä’s Andrea Morgante said the vision was to look beyond just ships with, ‘a lot of value to be captured in the logistics chain’.

ZEEDS' focus is on green ammonia as a feasible zero-emission fuel, given that it can be used on existing LNG-powered vessels without major modifications. But Margaret Mistry, Strategy & Innovation Manager at Equinor, emphasises the concept is ‘fuel agnostic’. Multiple fuels including hydrogen could also be utilised. Storage for ammonia is either internal, or in seabed tanks using water pressure to keep the fuel liquid. Data calculations show each hub could potentially produce sufficient ammonia to supply 65 vessels per day. Hydrogen production and storage could be accommodated on an under-deck of the installations.

Distribution would feature ship-to-ship (STS) bunkering at sea eliminating the need for clean-powered vessels to make frequent shore deviations to refuel, so minimising operational downtime as well as port congestion. Bunkering would be performed by autonomous units, dubbed energy providing vessels (EPVs), powered by offtake from their own cargo and with a range of 50 nautical miles around the mother hubs.

The full STS transfer process is designed take two hours with both vessels travelling at six knots in a process already proven even in high seas. Drones could airlift a pilot cable from the EPV to enable the bunkering hose to be reeled in and mated on the receiving unit. Each transfer is estimated to provide enough fuel for five days' operation for a ship in a typical North Sea trade, according to Wärtsilä's Egil Hystad, general manager of concept development.

Kvaerner's Kenneth Simonsen said that the entire scheme applies known technologies but combined in new ways in a new environment which need to be adapted to be fit for purpose with new competences, for example in ammonia and hydrogen production. The engineers and construction specialists said they started on the project with no fixed agenda apart from exploring what it would be possible to build offshore.

Morgante said the partners had initially struggled to synchronise the different mind sets as to what was required but they soon overcame this and focused on what was required. Chief business process officer Matt Duke of Grieg Star said the main benefit for his organisation is being ahead of the game, whilst emphasising the ethical priorities, adding:

“Knowing what technologies and fuel types will become available in the short to medium term is key for us, so we can utilise them to deliver on our commitment to sustainable shipping in an environmentally and financially productive way. It'll be a problem for our children and grandchildren if we don't address decarbonisation. We have to get cracking.”

For DFDS, the core benefit has been exploring ideas around the big uncertainties ahead, with Sif Lundsberg, project manager, Innovation and Technology, saying she could not see ‘Black Shipping’ in 2050 and change was essential. Colleague Sofie Hebeltoft, project manager, Climate Roadmap Implementation, said innovation was the key and it was shipping’s responsibility to get involved, to provide incisive data, and to think about things that don't seem possible today.

Equinor's Silje Malmstrøm, project manager Climate Roadmap Implementation, rejects suggestions of her company's involvement as ‘greenwashing’ saying the challenge is to end future energy uncertainty whilst Anders Valland of research organisation SINTEF sees ammonia as 'interesting' given the problems with storage and production of hydrogen.