Ultrabulk trials sail technology

Ultrabulk trials sail technology

Danish owner Ultrabulk is teaming with three British outfits to look at retrofitting a ship with sail technology.

British utility Drax, operators of the giant Drax Power Station located in North Yorkshire, is partnering with the Smart Green Shipping Alliance (SSGA), Ultrabulk and Humphreys Yacht Design on the project.

A £100,000 12-month feasibility study funded by InnovateUK, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and private investors has commenced. The study will examine the potential of retrofitting sail technology called Fastrig onto an Ultrabulk ship importing biomass into the UK for Drax, to produce renewable electricity. This study’s purpose is to find cost-effective ways to reduce the carbon intensity of the ocean transport required in the biomass supply chain.

The first six months of the study will focus on assessing the technical feasibility of the project, establishing the engineering parameters for retrofitting Fastrig technology onto ships; the next six months will focus on calculating detailed costings for the project and building the business case.

Depending on the outcomes of the feasibility study, the launch of the commercial demonstrator could be as soon as 2021.

“Fuel prices are vulnerable to oil market volatility, but once the technology is developed, wind is free at the point of use. The first onshore wind turbines were single devices producing 45KW; now we’re seeing fleets of 10MW producing energy, without subsidy. We can expect to mirror that speed of transition in the shipping industry,” commented Diane Gilpin, CEO and founder of SGSA.

“Shipping has been a part of our global transportation system for hundreds of years moving through wind and man-power to coal and diesel power. This project presents a new phase taking us full circle forward again to wind power, leading the way with state-of-the-art power and engine technologies enabling shipping to remain relevant and commercially viable in an increasingly low-carbon world,” said Dr Jenifer Baxter, head of engineering at IMechE.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.

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