Can Shipping Ever Be Carbon Conscious?

Tim Haïdar

All industries are under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions and increase efficiency. A global push by governments to cut carbon has seen more, tighter regulations introduced to boost the move towards energy efficiency, especially as many will face fines if they miss their targets.

However, as the number of deepwater oil and gas operations increases and easily accessible resources become sparse, more offshore support vessels (OSVs) are needed. This in turn has prompted a surge in demand for ships that are energy and fuel efficient, well as being technologically up to date, operationally viable and compliant with regulations.

Growth in efficient OSVs

ABB, a leader in power and automation technologies, recently claimed that the market for OSVs has grown exponentially in the last few years, while at the same time undergoing a shift from traditional driving forces to greener methods.

Now more and more ships are moving from diesel-mechanical propulsion to diesel-electric, dramatically reducing fuel consumption, emissions and providing users with the opportunity to embrace future energy sources.

"[This] has made electric propulsion the technology of choice for modern, eco-friendly OSVs," a report by the firm titled Electric propulsion, power and automation systems for advanced OSVs claimed.

It added that there is a significant variation in propulsion and thruster load profiles of OSVs that have electric propulsion, with fuel savings in these ships found to be anywhere between 15 per cent to 25 per cent over a full operational cycle. However, in DP modes this can increase to 50 per cent.

The firm explained that the electric propulsion saves fuel and emissions in two key ways compared to traditional diesel engines. The variable speed control of the propellers reduces no-load losses compared with traditional fixed speed, controllable pitch propellers and the use of several small constant speed engines and automatic start/stop technology means that only the engines needed are used. This gives a much better overall fuel economy than running one or two large engines below optimum levels.


Making a difference to your ecological footprint

Such is the growth and importance of energy efficiency to offshore shipping companies, that risk management consultancy DNV has set up a project to help firms identify and adopt best practice.

Working together with Norwegian offshore shipping companies BOA Offshore, Eidesvik Offshore, Farstad Shipping, Gulf Offshore Norge, Havila Shipping, Siem Offshore and Solstad Offshore, the company claimed that by joining forces they will have a much greater impact on carbon emissions than by ploughing on individually.

However, one firm in particular from the group has made it its mission to go green. Solstad Offshore ASA in Skudeneshavn in Norway has already got a fleet of OSVs that is among the most up to date and technically advanced in the world. But it now hopes to go that extra mile by setting a target of totally carbon neutral operations, a tall order by any means.

The company has already done a lot to embrace the green ethos and reduce emissions. Tor Inge Dale, environmental and development engineer at Solstad, explained to the Motorship that there is not often that much incentive to reduce the carbon footprint of vessels as the operational costs are paid by the client.

However, by introducing the Solstad Green Operations (SGO) code, which includes measures such as anchoring if the ship is idle and the weather and water depth permit it and reducing electrical consumption, he claims to have made a carbon saving of 10 to 20 per cent. This is the equivalent to over 20,000 tonnes.

Solstad Offshore was recognised for its efforts last year by being nominated for the prize 'Green Shipping Initiative' of the year at the 'Sustainable Shipping Awards 2010' in London, just missing out to the Clean Shipping Project.