The Maritime Hybrid & Electric Conference held in Bergen, Norway on September 4, 2019, traced the evolution and expansion of battery technology in marine applications. Corvus Energy executive vice president Halvard Hauso discussed his own company’s trajectory in session and in our video interview, below
In recent years, Corvus Energy has learned an important lesson: there is no one battery size that fits all applications.
Corvus executive vice president Halvard Hauso said his battery manufacturing company is building seven different battery types now where, in the recent past, they had only one. Having studied nearly 10,000 operational profiles and logged two million running hours over 10 years through its products, Corvus has introduced the new battery types to cater to varying industry needs. For maritime vessels, the range of battery sizes allows operators to avoid oversizing which inflates cost and undersizing which increases risk, said Mr Hauso.
From the Corvus Orca, an early and widely deployed product to the Blue Whale that has a slow recharge and discharge rates and is suited to big vessels, to the Blue Marlin for oil rigs, the batteries need to be tailormade for their applications, he said. In terms of their differences, Blue Whale doesn’t require maintenance aisles whereas the Orca does and the Blue Marlin can handle significant load variations while occupying half the space of the Blue Whale, he said.
The biggest battery is a 10 MW one and will be used on board a cruise vessel. “10 MW is a record but it will soon be broken, perhaps this year,” he said.
So far, batteries have been applied in ferries, cruise liners, offshore vessels and port cranes. And now ocean-going merchant ships are also showing interest, Mr Hauso said.
Tracing the evolution of testing, Mr Hauso recalled how his team started out testing batteries by overcharging them by a factor of 10 inside a room with a 8m by 8m door that was supposed to act as pressure relief valve if the battery were to blow up. These days, he said more rules and regulations are being put in place with classification societies weighing in on battery manufacturing and testing.
Just as its battery range is expanding, so is Corvus Energy. The company inaugurated a new manufacturing facility in Bergen on September 5, with a capacity to build out 400 MWh in battery power annually. With the help of 30 robots, Corvus aims to shave down its production rate from one Orca module every seven minutes to one every six minutes. In addition, the Corvus factory in Vancouver has a capacity of 100 to 150 MWh catering to the North American market. And it has further expansion plans. Asia will be the next target for a new Corvus factory.
Of course, Corvus has not cornered the market for maritime battery applications. Differentiating his company from Corvus, EAS Batteries managing director Michael Deutmeyer said EAS’ focus areas are high power applications and peak shaving. He advised ship owners that once they go the route of electrified drivetrains they have the ability to optimise. Electrification opens up possibilities for improvements across the ship including in propellers, he said, noting EAS’ product will be DNV GL certified by the end of 2019.
Mr Deutmeyer acknowledged total cost is a key deciding factor before owners invest in battery power, looking at how much energy can be obtained from the battery over its lifetime. In hybrid applications, kW (maximum power rating) is more important than kWh (capacity of battery), he said. Batteries should have as little internal resistance as possible since heat production inside the cells contributes to ageing.
Questions for the manufacturers centred around the operating experience of batteries and concerns over disposal of used batteries. Mr Hauso said in his ten years in the industry, there had been only one case of thermal runaway, and that occurred becuase of egregious errors on the part of operators, he said. Today’s batteries feature hardwire safety lockout functions stopping thermal runaway from propagating from one cell to another. Regarding the availability of green power in ports, he said more ports are offering it and gave the example of Bergen where 20 MW is available, capable of charging three vessels at once. Going forward, Mr Deutmeyer felt ports should be encouraged to install booster batteries powered by renewable energy.
Recycling is a question that the shipping industry will need to address to advance battery adoption, Mr Deutmeyer said, noting ’significant studies’ that are underway and that his own company already sells used electrodes to recyclers. Mr Hauso said used batteries from ships can also be repurposed for other applications before being recycled.