A reluctance to risk reliability in favour of new technology has not prevented Red Funnel from trialling an exciting new biofuel
UK ferry operator Red Funnel has recently trialled a biofuel consisting of hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and its chairman Kevin George said that the initial results were positive.
Mr George noted that the Isle of Wight ferry operator is “actively watching” developments in propulsion and renewable power as its thoughts turn to renewing some of its fleet in the mid-2020s.
But despite the push within some parts of the ferry sector to use alternative power, he expressed caution. “We are monitoring [renewable sources of power] closely but because reliability is such a fundamental part of our service offering we are fairly reluctant to get involved with technology that does not have some degree of maturity.”
Which in part explains why, when Cammell Laird shipyard started construction in June this year on Red Funnel’s new roro ferry Red Kestrel, the operator chose to stick with conventional diesel, due to emerging technologies being a “long way yet from maturity”.
Mr George said “We have no desire to be at the leading edge of technology and reliability is more important to us.”
However, despite exercising some caution when it comes to using alternative power, the company has been exploring the use of a biofuel based on HVO. Earlier this year Red Funnel trialled Green Biofuels’ Green D+ fossil-free fuel on its ropax fleet of ships, operating between Southampton and the Isle of Wight.
Green D+ fuel is formulated by Green Biofuels using a patented performance additive to HVO renewable diesel. The HVO is produced by Neste in Europe from waste and residue materials (for example, used cooking oil and waste fats from the food processing industry) as well as plant oils such as palm oil and rapeseed oil. The waste oil is recycled back into fuel, eliminating the dangers of inefficient and often dangerous disposal, or its re-use in the food chain.
The aim of the trial - which powered the main engines and onboard generators - was to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr George explained that the emissions monitoring involved using pure marine gasoil (MGO), a 50:50 mix of MGO and Green D+ and 100% Green D+.
He said that the “beauty of HVO is that it is a direct replacement for diesel and can be mixed with diesel.” The trial showed that the use of HVO had led to no degradation in the engines of the ferries.
Red Funnel is still analysing the emissions results, but Mr George said “Without question, emissions were dramatically reduced”.
He added “It is very early days and HVO is quite expensive at this point, but I think that if there was mass production of it then at that point it would be economically more viable than it is at the moment.”
He highlighted the importance of carrying out the trial: “While we had been reassured this fuel would work, we wanted to test it ourselves and initial indications from an emissions perspective are very encouraging. It is now an economic case of how to go forward with it.”
Kevin George (Red Funnel)
Kevin George was appointed chairman of Red Funnel Group in January 2018, having spent the four previous years as the ferry operator’s chief executive. An engineer by training, he has over 30 years of experience in the transport sector and roles have spanned senior management within companies including British Airways and Monarch Airlines. In December 2015, he was appointed chairman of industry body Discover Ferries.