The whole shipping community, under pressure from the authorities and the public, leaves no stone unturned to reducing its footprint, while continuing profitable operations.
The development of new fuels for shipping industry, aiming for zero emission or carbon neutrality, has started already,. However such new fuels are not readily available, in a considerable scale, yet. Such uncertainty makes it extremely difficult for the maritime sector to predict which fuel is going to prevail in the long run. This uncertainty forces the shipping industry to design flexible engines that can alternate between multiple potential future fuels. Such flexible designs, adds more complexity to the engine design and hence, slows down the profitable development towards IMO's goals regarding the GHG) emission reduction.
In such paradigm, maritime sector has started to look for alternative and complementary solutions.
Wind-propulsion technology is among solutions that have gained an increasing attention over the last years. However, by end of 2023, only around 50 large ships out of over 110,000 vessels will have wind-assisted technology. Why so few? The reason lies in the unclarity of cost/benefit analysis of the wind-propulsion technology in a holistic manner and over the life cycle of the vessel. This is exactly the focal research point of the KSP project "WIND - Enabling Zero-Emission shipping with wind-assisted propulsion."
This project will therefore develop a new holistic framework for accurate analysis of wind-powered merchant ships, with a particular focus on challenging unsteady situations and complex system interactions. The framework will be used to do several case studies on wind-powered ships that will explore benefits, challenges, and new solutions for ship design and operational strategies. This will help the Norwegian maritime cluster to stay ahead in of the competition and enable sustainable growth while reducing the environmental impact of shipping.
Greenhouse gas emissions from shipping represent around 3% of global emissions. Due to new regulations, this must be reduced drastically in the coming years before reaching zero by 2050.
Switching from fossil fuels to other energy carriers is challenging. Batteries require high investment costs and huge space on board to be feasible for long-distance shipping. Zero-emission fuels - such as hydrogen, ammonia, and methanol - have a long way to go before they can be produced sustainably at a large enough scale.
The maritime sector is, therefore, searching for other complementary solutions.
Wind-propulsion technology (also known as wind-assisted technology) is among the solutions that have gained increasing attention recently. It has enormous potential to decarbonize shipping and can both reduce emissions in the short term and enable long-term strategies relying on zero-emission fuels. However, looking at the international shipping fleet (and new-build order book), by the end of 2023, around 50 large ships out of over 110,000 vessels, will have wind-assisted technology. But why so few? One reason is the large amount of uncertainty in the current cost-benefit analysis of wind-propulsion technology. Improving this is the focal research point of the KSP project "WIND - Enabling Zero-Emission shipping with wind-assisted propulsion."
This project will develop new simulation tools for accurate analysis of wind-powered ships that include aerodynamics, hydrodynamics, propulsion, machinery, control system, and operation, both for short-term time-domain analysis and long-term statistical analysis. The tools will then be used for accurate case studies of wind-powered ships to quantify the potential of wind-power and make suggestions for design changes to maximize fuel savings.
This will help Norwegian ship owners, ship designers, and equipment suppliers to stay ahead of the competition and enable sustainable growth while reducing the environmental impact.