Results from a six-month feasibility study conducted by battery technology consultancy Swanbarton and maritime business advocates Marine South East indicate that flow batteries can offer a cheaper, flexible solution to reducing ship emissions than conventional solid batteries
The UK Department for Transport (DfT) Shore Power Infrastructure to Decarbonize Shipping (SPIDS) project researched a simulation of a flow battery shore charging system for cross-channel ferries visiting Portsmouth and concluded that the system is scalable and commercially viable.
According to Swanbarton, the SPIDS shore charging flow battery system reduced the peak power of a port’s network connection to only 10-20% of the grid power required using solid batteries.
Flow batteries store energy in fluid electrolytes and are less expensive, but larger than, solid batteries per kWh. Fluid electrolytes are pumped from tanks through the battery’s electrochemical cells as the battery is charged and discharged. Results from the project show that the flow battery’s benefits are scalable and that energy capacity can be increased by using larger electrolyte tanks.
As electrolyte fluids are less expensive per kWh than solid batteries, and the onshore recharging of a spent electrolyte does not need to be limited to the ship’s berth time, flow battery use reduces the peak grid power demand required in the port.
The research detailed the size and quantity of electrolyte holding tanks required and demonstrated that off-the-shelf pumps and pipes were viable for the system.
Swanbarton and Marine South East said their research will pave the way for a study into deploying flow battery power on ships and, ultimately, a trial of the technology on a small vessel with an onshore charging system.
Swanbarton manging director Anthony Price said “With increasing commercial interest in flow batteries and the need to meet the objectives in the UK Clean Maritime Plan, now is the right time to look at how we can bring the benefits of energy storage to the shipping industry.”
Marine South East chief executive Jonathan Williams added “The results of this SPIDS project are very encouraging and will lead to further collaboration and research which will take us closer to our goal of zero-emissions shipping and port operations.”
Reacting to the results of the study, the UK’s Maritime Minister Kelly Tolhurst said it “could have a massive impact on the way we transport our goods and move people across the globe.”
SPIDS is a Department for Transport project supported through the Transport-Technology Research Innovation Grant Programme (T-TRIG). A further study will consider ship design, but calculations indicate the technology is applicable to short-range ships with up to a 100-200 nautical mile range.
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