Ship designer and marine propulsion specialist Wärtsilä says ships used in the offshore wind industry could act as enablers for the adoption of future fuels in other sectors
In a 20 May 2020 webinar, the company said it anticipates significant growth in demand for offshore wind vessels, particularly for ships such as service operation vessels (SOVs).
Wärtsilä also sees a range of near-to-medium term opportunities for vessel owners in the offshore wind sector to use new emissions-reducing fuels and hybrid solutions such as batteries.
In the longer term, said company representatives, owners could take advantage of technology that could enable batteries on vessels to be charged while in the field. It might, they said, one day also be possible for vessels to make use of compressed hydrogen produced in offshore windfarms. Interest in solutions such as these is growing rapidly, they said.
Representatives of the company said the rapid increase in the adoption of offshore wind energy around the world is driving demand for vessels and that as the market grows, so too does demand for more efficient, greener vessels to build offshore windfarms and carry out operations and maintenance.
The company highlighted that operations and maintenance (O&M) costs account for around 30% of lifecycle costs of an offshore windfarm and that, of that 30%, vessel costs are a not insignificant part, and could be reduced by designing more efficient vessels with reduced fuel consumption.
Wärtsilä Marine Norway sales director Cato Esperø and Wärtsilä Ship Design senior general manager Tommy Hivand said vessel owners in the sector and those planning to enter it are placing growing emphasis on reducing O&M costs and on reducing fuel consumption to reduce fuel costs and emissions.
Mr Esperø said, “There are a lot of synergies between offshore wind and the drive towards decarbonising shipping. Understanding is growing that a number of new marine fuels are available to owners. For the time being availability is an issue, but that is changing.”
He highlighted that new fuels may be subject to different local regulations and feedstock production capacities and infrastructure to support them varies. Many carbon-neutral fuels will have lower volumetric energy density compared to heavy fuel oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG, which is already used in a growing number of vessels) and may require larger tanks on vessels.
Carbon-neutral fuels typically require existing engine-related equipment to be replaced and are likely to be more expensive than fossil fuels, at least initially, the company says. Managing some cryogenic or toxic fuels will require more complex solutions to comply with rules and regulations. “For the time being there isn’t a consensus about which fuel to use, and it will probably depend on individual owner requirements,” Mr Esperø said.
Mr Esperø and Mr Hivand said using dual-fuel engines on vessels would enable a range of fuels to be adopted. These include bio or synthetic methane, which can readily be used in liquid form with equipment made for LNG.
Other new fuel types with reduced environmental impact include methanol, for which technology development has been completed and conversion capabilities proven; ammonia, for which the company already has technology and combustion concepts to maximise engine performance and related safety technology is currently being investigated; and hydrogen. The company’s gas engines are already able to blend LNG with up to 20% hydrogen, and combustion concepts have been developed for 100% hydrogen.
Wärtsilä Marine general manager business sales Arthur Boogaard said that in addition to wanting to build green ships for a green industry, vessel owners are already taking future International Maritime Organization (IMO) emissions reduction requirements into consideration when making purchasing decisions.
“If you build a vessel now, it will still be operational by 2050,” said Mr Boogaard. “So, it needs to meet IMO regulations and be designed in a flexible way, using existing technology, at the same time being flexible enough to accommodate new technology that will become available in the next 5-10 years.
“Biofuels, hydrogen, hybrid batteries and technology such as heat recovery systems and cold recovery systems are only a few of the technologies that environmentally conscious owners are including in vessel designs. Biofuels and hydrogen aren’t widely available yet, but we are already helping clients to prepare for them and customers are responding by planning their vessels accordingly.”
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