Presentations at Riviera’s Maritime Hybrid & Electric Conference highlight how OSV owners are advancing charterer’s green logistics ambitions with investments in battery-hybrid propulsion
“Our ambition is to transform our logistics organisation into sustainable solutions for the decades ahead,” Equinor manager, marine logistics & emergency response Morten Sundt told delegates at Riviera’s Maritime Hybrid & Electric Conference in Bergen, Norway on 4 September. To accomplish its goal, however, Mr Sundt said Equinor needs the close co-operation of “enthusiastic” OSV owners and suppliers to reach its ambitious CO2 reduction goals, since it does not own its own resources.
“We want to provide energy for a low carbon future. As such, we want to be the most carbon-efficient oil and gas producer,” he said. Mr Sundt says Equinor generates 9 kilos of CO2 emissions for every barrel of oil it produces – about half of the industry average. He expects Johan Sverdrup, Equinor’s newest offshore oil and gas project on the Norwegian Continental Shelf, will produce less than 1 kilo of CO2 per barrel.
Indeed, Equinor has set goals of cutting its CO2 emissions from offshore oil and gas operations by 50% by 2030, using 2011 levels as a baseline. Critical to the plan is getting insight and control over the large and complex logistics chain and close co-operation from OSV owners.
“We transport about 350,000 passengers annually through our heliports and our platform supply vessels carry about 1.5M tonnes of cargo annually from six shore bases,” said Mr Sundt. He pointed out that none of the vessels are owned by Equinor. “For the most part,” he said, “those vessels are hired through long-term charters, but Equinor also secures additional vessels on the mid-term ad spot markets. We are a buyer of logistics services; about 95% of our spend goes toward suppliers.”
Besides close co-operation with OSV owners, another strategy enabler cited by Mr Sundt is digitalisation.
“We gather an enormous amount of data. How can we use this data to optimise our logistics?” he said. Data helps optimise a vessel’s speed and route planning and implementing technologies such as battery-hybrid propulsion and shore power connections for OSVs has been successful.
Battery-hybrid propulsion has yielded several benefits beyond cutting fuel consumption and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. He told delegates OSV battery-hybrid applications:
Raising awareness internally and externally underpins the success of the programme, said Mr Sundt.
“There is not a day that passes when a request isn’t sent to speed up a delivery. If that happens they will receive an e-mail asking how much extra fuel will be consumed and CO2 emitted as a result? We try to build a consciousness throughout our organisation,” he said.
Results from the green logistics programme to date have been encouraging. Adjusted for reduced activity levels as compared to the baseline year of 2011, Equinor slashed CO2 emissions by 26% in 2018 and reached 30% by July 2019.
“Much of the credit has to go to our suppliers, shipowners and the crews,” said Mr Sundt. “Fuel reduction comes down to how the crews are operating their vessels.” To underpin the effort, Equinor has focused on fuel consumption as an evaluation criteria in new vessel contracts and has implemented risk-sharing agreements with shipowners.
While he envisions the day when Equinor will be able to charter a zero-emissions vessel, Mr Sundt realises the oil company’s green logistics journey is not nearly complete and that the Norwegian government has set even steeper emissions cuts, which might mean “moving the goal posts” for its reduction targets.
“There are about 4,000 days left until 2030. How do we reach our target by 2030? Some of the vessels operating today will still be trading in 2030. A lot has to be done. How can technology help us further? We want to work with shipowners and ship designers on solutions.”
Quoting from the movie Smokey & the Bandit, Mr Sundt said, “We have a long way to go and a short time to get there.”
Equinor charters some of its vessels from Eidesvik, a Bømlo, Norway-based OSV owner that has “innovation in its DNA.” Mr Sundt cites the platform supply vessel Viking Energy, which was the first offshore vessel to be powered by LNG in 2003 and later fitted with a battery pack.
Mr Sundt commented jokingly that Eidesvik executive vice president Jan Lodden “might have the first vessel fitted with a hydrogen engine” too.
While there was no mention of a hydrogen engine project, Mr Lodden did tell delegates in a presentation at the conference of Eidesvik’s experience with Viking Lady, which was fitted with a molten carbonate fuel cell in 2010 and of its ongoing investments in battery-hybrid propulsion for its fleet. Fuel cell research on Viking Lady was underwritten by the Norwegian Research Council and research under the FellowSHIP project was conducted in collaboration with DNV GL, MTU, and Wärtsilä among others.
Starting in 2003, FellowSHIP partners started to explore marine fuel cells, establishing a proof of concept and basic principles for the technology that guided the industry through the next stages of development.
Before it ceased in 2018, the FellowSHIP project had shifted to demonstrating the applicability of battery-hybrid power systems, lithium-ion batteries and laying the groundwork for the creation of class rules and commercialisation.
Lessons learnt with Viking Lady, which was fitted with a battery in 2009, helped refine subsequent battery-hybrid installations in Eidesvik’s fleet.
Eidesvik has four battery-hybrid PSVs in operation. “We operate these vessels on one engine with the battery system as a backup for redundancy. Using one engine, you can reduce the running hours on the engine and lower maintenance costs,” said Mr Lodden.
Eidesvik is due to refit Viking Avant in H1 2020 with a battery-hybrid propulsion system when it undergoes class survey and the company’s management board has now given the green light to refit the 145.6-m subsea support vessel Viking Neptun.
Mr Lodden emphasised that Viking Neptun was a significant development as it was to be installed with a 750 kWh energy storage system – a step change from Viking Lady’s 350 kWh capacity. “The more installed power you have,” said Mr Lodden, “the more savings you can get.” Viking Avant’s refit was being done on speculation, but Mr Lodden was confident that the company would see a good payback on the vessel.
He cautioned against assuming a quick return on investment and counselled to have patience with crew during the start-up phases with the new technology.
Since 2009, Eidesvik will have invested Nrk113M (US$12.5M) in battery-hybrid refits, with an additional Nrk66M (US$7.3M) in support from Enova.
Fuel savings equate to about 3,000 tonnes annually, or a reduction of about 9,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.
While the payback period averages about five years, Mr Lodden concluded: “It is well worth doing,” given the lower fuel consumption, reduced maintenance and added safety offered by battery-hybrid propulsion.