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Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Marine Propulsion & Auxiliary Machinery

Are ferries electric?

Tue 12 Jun 2018 by Rebecca Moore

Are ferries electric?
Power Dock is a unique charging solution developed for battery-powered Future of the Fjords

Norway’s tough environmental legislation is spearheading the drive towards battery-powered ferries, and the technology will likely prove valuable across the wider shopping industry

Earlier this year, the Norwegian parliament announced that it has adopted a resolution to halt emissions from cruise ships and ferries in the Norwegian world heritage fjords as soon as technically possible, and no later than 2026. Operators must conform or risk financial ruin, and this is resulting in a scramble towards battery and hybrid power as a standard means of propulsion.

Siemens head of offshore and marine center Torstein Sole-Gärtner told Marine Propulsion “In the near future most ferries [in Norway] will include some kind of energy storage, and we also think that by 2020 there will be 60 ferries that are hybrid or electric in Norway.”

The development of battery ferries in Norway is expected to drive similar developments in the marine and ferry sector further afield.

Mr Sole-Gärtner said “We see energy storage as very important for offshore vessels and offshore platforms, we have high expectations for this market. One of our major plans is to take the electric propulsion and battery technology developed in ferries and take this globally from Norway, to help develop the electric propulsion marine sector.”

Siemens is opening a fully automated and digitalised plant in Norway in Q3 2018 that will develop and manufacture energy storage technologies for both marine and offshore oil and gas applications.

Indeed, the company has been at the forefront of developing electric propulsion and battery technology for the ferry industry. It provided the propulsion and battery solution for Ampere in 2015, the world’s first fully battery-powered car ferry. Mr Sole-Gärtner said that the solution was based on technology that Siemens had developed for the offshore industry. With the change from diesel propulsion to battery, Norwegian ship owner Norled has reduced the cost of fuel by 60% on Ampere.

Other recent contracts include two new battery-powered ferries for Fjord1 (announced in 2016) and the electric solution for FinFerries’ battery-powered car ferry Elektra, delivered last year. Most prominently, Siemens is providing the electric propulsion and energy storage solution, management and automation for Color Line’s new battery hybrid vessel, which will be the largest battery hybrid plug-in ferry in the world when delivered next year.

Siemens is using its BlueDrive PlusC propulsion system and the new BlueVault lithium-ion energy storage solution, which aims to reduce emissions and risk for offshore and marine deployment. Mr Sole-Gärtner said “One advantage is that it allows integration of the energy storage system in an efficient way without a lot of equipment.” The system also uses a direct current rather than an alternating current, which makes it “fit for purpose for use with a battery system” and it works more efficiently with a battery system compared to an alternating system.

One challenge Siemens must overcome in the installation is the sheer size of Color Hybrid. “The propulsion system and batteries are larger than those usually deployed in a ferry, but the technology is scalable, so it can meet different needs and be used across small and large ferries,” explained Mr Sole-Gärtner.

Fully electric Future of the Fjords

Another very innovative all-electric ferry is The Fjords’ Future of the Fjords, delivered in April this year. Marine Propulsion was invited to visit the ferry and hear from key players.

Future of the Fjords is the first carbon fibre vessel in the world to be fully electric. It is also the first vessel of its kind to offer completely emission-free transport through the Western Norwegian UNESCO World Heritage-listed region.

The ferry is a sister vessel to Vision of the Fjords, which was built by the same shipyard Brødrene Aa, and delivered in 2016. But the latest vessel goes one step further as it is fully electric; in contrast, Vision of the Fjords is an electric-diesel hybrid.

It also heralds another first – The Fjords has developed a unique charging solution called Power Dock, in partnership with Brødrene Aa.

This 40 m long, 5 m wide floating glass fibre dock will sit in the water at Gudvangen, housing a 2.4 MWh battery pack. This is an intrinsic component, fundamental to overcoming the biggest challenge in building the all-electric ferry. The Fjords managing director Rolf Sandvik explained to the press assembled on the ferry that the company thought it could use ‘plug and play’ to connect to the local grid. But the local community supplies Oslo with almost all its electrical power, meaning grid capacity is limited; there was not enough to provide the charging power needed by Future of the Fjords.

Mr Sandvik continued “[the grid would have allowed us to] charge from less capacity and do one trip a day but to make a profit, we need to do five trips a day. We thought that there would be no issue when it came to storing electricity, due to the fact that the grid supports nearly the whole east of the country.”

This was a huge concern, as by this point The Fjords had signed the contract for the new ferry.

To resolve the problem, the ferry operator and shipyard came up with Power Dock. It charges steadily throughout the day via connection to the local grid network. The innovative solution allows the vessel to efficiently and cost effectively ‘refill’ in just 20 minutes.

Future plans show the great potential of Power Dock. It has a mobile infrastructure, so The Fjords can tow it to other ports if needed and Mr Sandvik added “It might have something for different businesses too, as we see a future where it could be a holding area for energy for cruise ships, electric bikes and cars.”

Westcon Power & Automation provided the energy storage and complete system integration for Future of the Fjords. This included its e-SEAMatic Blue energy management system, e-SEAMatic integrated automation system, e-SEA drive power conversion and two e-SEA drive electrical motors at 450 kWh each. There was also an e-SEA manoeuvring control system and the company provided the main switchboards.

Westcon manager of sales and business development Frode Skaar said that the solution was “tailor-made to the vessel to make it low in weight”. He emphasised that it was important to consider all components of the solution when putting together the energy storage. The batteries came from LG Chem and were adapted for maritime use by ZEM.

Battery notation boost

The vessel also highlights the strides made by class when it comes to battery notations, with DNV GL classing the vessel. When construction started on Vision of the Fjords in 2014, there were no defined class rules governing the use of batteries in this kind of vessel. In 2012 DNV GL published the world’s first battery-class rules. These were tentative because technology was still developing. In 2015, the society published a more consistent and prescriptive rule set. And last year another update was published, based on the knowledge acquired so far and aligned with Norwegian Maritime Authority’s requirements.

These rules consist of two notations: Future of the Fjords has been built to both.

DNV GL principal engineer and battery expert Sverre Eriksen said “The first notation is concerned about the safety of the batteries on board; the requirements are how to protect [the] vessel from a battery fire and about electrical safety.”

The second notation, the battery power notation, is about having control of the capacity of the batteries. “You need proper management and to know the health of the battery and test it periodically to prove that the capacity of the battery is correct,” Mr Eriksen said. The vessel needs to take care of redundancy requirements and part of this is having two batteries in separate battery rooms.

With so much innovation feeding through to the wider maritime sector, it may well be the case that Future of the Fjords could easily have been named Future of the industry.

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