By Alexander Whiteman

Britain’s Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) will fund development of flettner rotor systems for cargo vessels, arguing that wind power represents the only credible way to cut shipping’s CO2 emissions. A flettner rotor system uses a spinning cylinder to convert wind force into thrust that helps propel a ship.

ETI is a public-private partnership between global energy and engineering companies and the UK government and acts as a conduit between academia, industry and Whitehall to accelerate the development of low-carbon technologies.

In its report HDV Marine Insights, ETI says non-fossil fuels, including nuclear, don’t present a credible power source in the medium-to-long-term to cut the industry’s emissions, which International Maritime Organisation (IMO) forecasts could increase 250 per cent on 2011 levels by 2050. IMO said that reducing fuel consumption, rather than trying to eliminate fossil fuels altogether, was more a plausible way for shipping to reduce its emissions.

Stuart Bradley, ETI strategy manager and the report’s author, told The Loadstar that a combination of flettner rotors, waste heat recovery and high-efficiency propulsion systems could result in 30 per cent fuel saving, to which flettner rotors could contribute 17 per cent. “Shipping emits significant amounts of CO2 which, without intervention, will rise as a proportion of our national emissions as other sectors become less carbon dependent,” said Mr. Bradley. “Unlike the power and heat sectors and other forms of transport, there does not seem to be a credible alternative to fossil fuels to power vessels. So in the medium-to-long-term, the best potential to achieve substantial CO2 reductions is by reducing fuel consumption.”

The Netherlands’ University of Delft also released a report, commissioned by the EC, on wind powered systems that suggests flettner rotors could save as much as 23 per cent, depending on speed. Its report, Analysis of Market Potentials and Market Barriers for Wind Propulsion Technology, says four barriers would have to be overcome for any system to succeed: carriers must be able to retrofit the technology to ships; the system must offer cost efficiencies; the shipowner must be assured of these efficiencies; and shipowners must be able to finance the acquisition and installation of any system.

Mr. Bradley agreed, saying the technology must be demonstrable if the industry is to have the confidence to make the required investment. Gavin Allwright, secretary general of International Windship Association (IWSA), told The Loadstar that Finnish operator Viking Line’s decision to retrofit two Norsepower rotor sails – an update on the flettner rotor – to one of its cruise liners indicated the industry was coming to terms with wind-powered systems.

The deal was announced in late January, and Ulf Hagström, Senior Vice-President, Marine operations & Newbuildings at Viking Line, said: “Our cruise vessel is the first to use a combination of alternative clean fuels, modern rotor sails, electric propulsion and a hydrodynamically optimised hull. We believe the technology’s ability to enhance our ship’s performance by enabling significant reductions in fuel burn and costs, as well as carbon emissions.”

Reprinted courtesy of The Loadstar (