Friday, May 14, 2021

Wind Power Takes a Major Step Forward as VLOC Outfitted

Oldest Driving Force for Shipping Makes a Comeback
Shipping News Feature

BRAZIL – WORLDWIDE – For any who had doubts about the new enthusiasm for the century old Flettner rotor technology which sees huge vessels harness the power of the wind as a driving force, it might well be time to reconsider.

Using those basic principles of Anton Flettner new designs of ‘wind sails’ have been evolving in the past few years and now Brazilian mining giant Vale has had the technology built in to its latest new build vessel, the first ever VLOC (Very Large Ore Carrier) to be so equipped.

The 325,000 dwt Sea Zhoushan is a Guaibamax class ship, that is one which is the maximum size possible for the Guaiba Island loading terminal in Sepetiba Bay, southern Brazil to handle. With Vale as project leader, the installation of the technology, provided by Finnish manufacturer Norsepower, had the partnership of Korean ship owner Pan Ocean to apply it to the vessel.

The VLOC has been fitted with five rotor sails, cylindrical rotors four metres in diameter and 24 metres high, equivalent to a seven-story building. During operation, the rotors rotate at different speeds, depending on the environmental and operational conditions of the ship, to create a pressure difference in order to move the ship forward, due to a phenomenon known as the Magnus effect.

Chinese design company Shanghai Ship and Design Research Institute (SDARI) was responsible for vessel design and integration with the sails. The Chinese shipyard New Times Shipbuilding built the ship already adapted to receive the sails, which were installed at another Chinese shipyard, PaxOcean Engineering Zhoushan. The Guaibamax is leaving China within the next few days for Brazil, where it will receive the first shipment of iron ore at one of Vale's ports in the country.

The five sails installed along the vessel should allow a gain in efficiency of up to 8% and a consequent reduction of up to 3,400 tonnes of CO2 equivalent per ship per year. Vale's s shipping technical manager, Rodrigo Bermelho explains the details thus:

"Our naval engineering team has been studying the use of wind propulsion technology for our business since 2016. With the Ecoshipping program we have developed several cooperation partnerships with ITV (Vale Institute of Technology), universities and laboratories in Brazil and Europe.

”For this project, the purpose was to evaluate the best operating conditions for rotor sails in our contracted fleet, and also validate the gains of this technology in terms of reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. We realised that we have a competitive advantage over our competitors: the Brazil-Asia route has more wind on average than that of Australia-Asia.”

According to Vale's manager, 3D models of all the company's ports were made to analyse how the ship would be moored. The sails recline to allow the operation of the ship loader resulting in no interference whilst loading. The ship chosen was already contracted to be built and the time between detailed design to manufacture and installation of the equipment was one year in addition to laboratory tests and numerical analyses.

The operation of the first ore carrier equipped with rotor sails is part of Ecoshipping, a program created by Vale's shipping section to meet the company's challenge of reducing its carbon emissions in line with what was discussed within the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Last year, the company announced an investment of at least US$2 billion to reduce its scope 1 and 2 emissions by 33% by 2030.

Vale also announced that it will reduce scope 3 emissions by 15% by 2035, related to the value chain, of which shipping emissions are part, given that the ships are not owned. These goals are aligned with the ambition of the Paris Agreement. At the beginning of June, Vale is expected to receive the first Guaibamax ship with Air Lubrication installed, another technology we have covered in past years.

This technology creates a carpet of air bubbles at the bottom of the ship, allowing a reduction in water friction with the hull. Conservative expectations point to a fuel reduction of around 5 to 8%, with the potential to reduce annual emissions in Vale's iron ore shipping by 4.4%. In addition, Vale has been preparing for the adoption of alternative fuels. Dozens of second-generation VLOCs already in operation have been designed for future liquefied natural gas (LNG) system installation, including an under-deck compartment to receive a tank with capacity for the entire voyage.

The Ecoshipping program is developing a multi-fuel tank capable of storing and consuming, in the future, not only liquefied natural gas (LNG), but also methanol and ammonia and Bermelho says these combined technologies have the capacity to reduce the demand for fuel per ship and facilitate the adoption of low carbon fuels. A preliminary study for Guaibamax ships estimates that emission reductions can range from 40% to 80% when powered by methanol and ammonia, or up to 23% in the case of LNG.

Photo: Courtesy of Vale.