Partners in Norway's FellowSHIP research and development project are breaking new ground as they prepare to install a battery pack with energy storage capability on board the offshore support vessel Viking Lady. The ship's owner, Eidesvik Offshore, one of Norway's most progressive operators, is working closely with class society DNV and power systems company Wärtsilä to modify the ship's existing hybrid energy installation, comprising 4 dual-fuel powered engines and a fuel cell. The project is due for completion in 2013 and, with today's high energy prices, its return on investment is estimated at less than two years.
VIKING LADY loading in Bergen Port
Now, the fuel cell will be paired with batteries, cutting CO2 emissions by up to a third, other emissions by an even greater percentage and raising fuel efficiency by some 30% as compared with conventional marine propulsion systems. According to Björn-Johan Vartdal, DNV's project manager, when the vessel is operating in dynamic positioning mode, there will be major scope for fuel savings. When in port, the Viking Lady will be able to operate on her fuel cell and battery power alone, he says, cutting emissions dramatically. Other benefits include reductions in machinery maintenance costs and less noise and vibration, he adds.
The three-year-old vessel was already a record holder, being the first merchant vessel to have a fuel cell in operation on board as part of its propulsion system. Since its installation in 2009, the 330kW fuel cell has successfully clocked up more than 18,500 hours. Fuel cells are more efficient than conventional combustion engines. They convert the energy in a fuel directly into electricity through a reaction with oxygen in the air. Unlike batteries, however, fuel cells do not need to be recharged. They continue to operate for as long as they are supplied with suitable fuels, which include LNG, biogas, hydrogen and methanol.
Now, the addition of batteries will liken the vessel, in principle, to hybrid cars, which use electricity as a supplementary power source. Fuel and emissions savings will be accurately measured and the hybrid system will also be modeled in detail. The accurate calibration and verification process will enable simulation of the power system and optimization of similar hybrid systems in the future. Meanwhile, DNV's rules for battery-powered ships are being developed in parallel. The first of their kind, the new rules will cover both hybrid systems where batteries are one component of a vessel's power system, and also for vessels powered solely by battery.
The Fellowship project is supported by the Research Council of Norway, Innovation Norway and the Eureka network, which includes the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
Images: Courtesy of Eidesvik