Developments that will shape the future of fuel for shipping have been coming thick and fast in recent weeks.
So fast, in fact, that an executive from international class society Lloyd’s Register has told the UN that zero-carbon emission vessels will be technically ready to go into the water within four years. So soon, in fact, that the ships will be ready before the land-side infrastructure is even built.
A mix of fuels will be required in the future and these include ammonia, hydrogen and various biofuels along with emerging enabling technology such as fuel cells, high storage batteries and energy recovery systems, according to class society RINA.
Ammonia and hydrogen are considered to be likely fuels that will power ships in the future. However, as class society Bureau Veritas notes, both ammonia and hydrogen have a much lower energy density than existing fuel oils. Hydrogen has an energy density between four to eight times lower (depending upon its state) while ammonia requires three times the space to contain the same amount of energy.
Ammonia powered box-ships and tankers
Ammonia is already widely used in industry and global production levels are already at 190 million tonnes a year, according to class society Bureau Veritas. Ammonia does not contain carbon so there are no carbon-dioxide emissions upon combustion.
International class society Lloyd’s Register has granted Approval in Principle to an ammonia-fuelled 23,000 TEU box ship designed by Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Enginering and Man Energy Solutions. It is hoped that the ship would be commercialised by 2025.
Lloyd’s Register has also given approval-in-principle for an ammonia-fuelled tanker that is being developed by Samsung Heavy Industries. Samsung hopes to commercialise its tanker design by 2024.
Energy giant Shell is very firmly backing hydrogen as the marine fuel of the future.
“We believe liquid hydrogen to be advantaged over other potential zero-emissions fuels for shipping, therefore giving a higher likelihood of success… ” it says it its policy statement, “Decarbonising Shipping“. The energy major adds that it considers that safe designs can be created for the marine use of hydrogen and, as a fuel, it can be “switched in” to use with fuels cells that have been developed using liquefied natural gas first.
Meanwhile, Bud Darr, Executive Vice President, Maritime Policy and Government Affairs, MSC Group, has told an international conference that it is exploring the use of hydrogen, and fuels derived from it, as a possible fuel source for liner container shipping.
Class society Lloyd’s Register has granted Approval in Principle to BeHydro for a hydrogen-powered dual-fuel diesel-hydrogen engine with a one megawatt capacity. BeHydro is a joint venture between Compagnie Maritime Belge and the Anglo Belgian Corporation. The joint venture is planning to develop larger engines up to 10 MW.
Closer to home, the Port of Auckland is hoping to have its hydrogen-from-water production plant at Waitemata Port operational sometime in 2021.
LNG: carbon neutral LNG / bioLNG and fuel cells
Finnish marine technology company, Wärtsilä, has announced it has been awarded a contract to build a plant in Germany for the production of carbon dioxide neutral liquid transport fuels. The plant will liquefy gas from the natural gas grid and will have an initial capacity of 100,000 tonnes per year.
The “bio” part of the BioLNG originates in biological waste material that is fed into a biogas producing reactor. The resulting biogas is then transformed into biomethane and is injected into the natural gas grid.
A consortium of Nordic companies are now building a pilot fuel cell system that will be installed on an Odfjell chemical tanker.
“Ships are to be operated for 20-30 years, and we need flexible solutions that can meet future emission requirements. We do not have time to wait, we have to think about zero emissions already now,” says Erik Hjortland, VP Technology at Odfjell SE. “The fuel cell project is one of the paths we are pursuing. We focus on machinery rather than focusing on one single type of fuel. Fuel cell technology gives us flexibility that ensures environmentally efficient operation regardless of fuel changes that may occur in the years ahead.”
The fuel cell will be able to use different types of fuel such as ammonia, and LNG. According to one of the partners of the project, tests show a 40 per cent to 45 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions when LNG is the fuel in the sell. If a fuel such as ammonia were to be used then it would be carbon emission-free.
Batteries are definitely included
Recently shipbuilder Kawasaki announced that it had received an order for a world-first: a battery powered tanker.
Admittedly, it’s not a deep-sea tanker but rather it will be used in near-coastal applications. The new tanker appears to be derived fro, the e5 concept / proposal which was developed as a bunkering tanker for use in Tokyo Bay.
There’s little in the way of technical details other than the fact that it will have two sets of lithium ion marine 1,740 kWh batteries which will be deployed in conjunction with two 300 kW Kawasaki Rexpeller variable-speed motor-driven propulsion units.
There are several smaller all-electric watercraft in commercial operation around the world. For instance, there at least two operational all-electric car ferries in Scandinavia, the Tycho Brae and the Aurora. Meanwhile Ports of Auckland is due to take delivery of Sparky a 70 tonne bollard pull Damen-built electric-tug next year. It’s a primarily battery-propelled although it has two 1,000 kW back-up generator sets as back-up in the event of an electrical failure.