Efficiency in Shipping Through Technology Choices

The global shipping community is entering a challenging future, as both demands for economic results and the upcoming environmental requirements will change shipping and lead to significantly cleaner and more efficient operations.

This is driving innovation as the need for efficiency is creating new solutions. We have challenged our experts to provide input on technology choices, fuel solutions, ECA compliance and other regulatory issues brought forward by the IMO and governments worldwide. In this complex picture, making the right choices for both new and current ships is essential and a main topic of this issue of Maritime Update. This article consists of three parts: ECA implementation, alternative fuels and future innovative solutions. In addition, there is a related article on batteries for ship propulsion on page 28–29.

Planning for ECA implementation

Those operating in dedicated Emission Control Areas (ECA) from 2015 have mainly three choices: switch to low sulphur (0.1%) fuel oil, install a scrubber or convert to LNG. Each of these options comes with its own set of risks, thus making investment decisions difficult. The solution that appears to be the cheapest investment may turn out to be the most expensive one in the long run. In order to remain competitive in the market, it is crucial to make the right choice.

The ECA requirements will affect trade in large parts of Europe as well as the United States and Canada, and some 40 per cent of the world fleet enter these areas during a year, with half spending more than five per cent of their time in these waters. ECA requirements are also being considered in several other areas globally and this means that ECA requirements must be part of your planning. From 2016, all new ships must comply with the Tier III NOx requirements when operating in the North American/US Caribbean ECA and this requirement is almost certain to be extended to the Baltic Sea and North Sea ECAs as well.

Cruise ship in fjord

Scrubbers allow for the use of high sulphur fuel and there are no availability concerns as to fuel. A scrubber requires significant space and investment costs and will not comply with future NOx requirements.

LNG has been used as a marine fuel since 2001 and 38 LNG-fuelled ships are in operation worldwide, with about 30 in the order books. LNG meets the future ECA SOx limits, helps meeting EEDI requirements and can comply with ECA NOx regulations, but requires significant investment and extra space on board for LNG tanks. The main concerns include LNG bunkering availability and the price of LNG.

Low sulphur fuel oils are a well proven and tested solution, but both price and supply capacity sufficient to meet a sudden increase in demand may be issues if this becomes the preferred solution. In addition, they will not help meet the NOx regulations.

DNV has developed a decision support tool that assesses the financial attractiveness and technical feasibility of the available ECA compliance measures. It can be applied to specific ships and operational patterns. The right option will depend on the ship owner’s time horizon – a wrong technical choice may be severely detrimental to competitiveness. The DNV ECA decision support tool includes:

  • Analysis of the technical feasibility of available options, operational aspects and related risks
  • Fuel consumption estimates for each option based on the ship’s operational profile
  • High-level financial analysis, including a CAPEX, OPEX, payback-time and sensitivity analysis for critical input parameters such as fuel price scenarios

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MARPOL SOx regulations

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One example of a financial comparison of the different options for a small container vessel
Alternative fuels for shipping

DNV Research & Innovation is invest­igating a number of alternative fuels that are available today or are expected to be ­available in the near future. The most promising alternative today is LNG, but a number of other fuels, such as biodiesel, LPG, DiMethylEther (DME) and ­methanol, may become part of the fuel mix in the future and can also be used to comply with sulphur regulations in an ECA. Biodiesel can be used in existing marine engines, while the other fuel solutions can be used in dual fuel engines. Here, typically a pilot fuel oil injection is used for ignition at engine loads of over 25 per cent. At low engine loads, fuel oil is used.

In biofuel operations, SOx emissions are eliminated and particulate matter emissions are significantly reduced, while NOx emissions can also be reduced depending on the fuel. In principle, existing diesel engines can run on biodiesel blends. Potential problems include fuel instability, corrosion, susceptibility to microbial growth in long-term storage, adverse effects on piping and instrumentation and poor cold-flow properties. Most of these problems can be solved, and testing on board ships is carried out to resolve the remaining issues. The widespread use of alternative fuels in shipping will depend on cost, incentives and availability in sufficient volumes.

Innovation and adaption of new solutions

DNV has highlighted six key areas that offer significant potential for innovation and we believe these will be at the core of R&D in the next ten years.

The low-energy ship
Multifunctional ship types and/or technological advances in drag reduction, propulsion and materials are expected to support new ship concepts. Significant efforts have been put into creating energy-efficient ships over the past couple of years, and further progress will be achieved between now and 2020.

The green-fuelled ship
Reductions in the permitted emission levels of SOx, NOx and particulate matters will result in the use of cleaner energy sources. Abatement technologies such as exhaust gas recirculation, scrubbers and catalytic reduction as well as the use of LNG and biofuels will be further exploited.

The electric ship
“The Prius of the Sea” could contain diesel-electric configurations, marine fuel cells, battery packages, solar panels or retractable wind turbines, and superconducting motors. Such complex powering systems will require energy production to be designed, operated and controlled in an integrated manner.

The digital ship
“E-navigation” is not new to shipping and by 2020 most of the fleet will have installed such systems. The onboard electronic charts will become the unifying platform on the digital ship, and will also integrate security, navigation risks, port entry information, weather routing and similar needs.

The Arctic ship
Increases in Arctic ship traffic over the next decade will lead to the faster development of Arctic-related technologies. These include ice-route optimisation software, hull-load monitoring systems and maybe the introduction of new ice-breaking concepts.

The virtual ship
In order to manage the risks inherent in innovative solutions, there will be wide use of model-based techniques for assessing novel concepts and technologies. These include assessments of the ship’s technical and economic performance from a life cycle perspective.

Reference & Image Credits: dnv

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