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Thursday, November 22, 2018 

Bulk carrier operator Ultrabulk is partnering with Drax, the operator of the UK’s largest power station, the Smart Green Shipping Alliance (SSGA), and Humphreys Yacht Design to tackle shipping’s emissions problem.

As part of the £100,000 12-month feasibility study funded by InnovateUK, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and private investors, the consortium will examine the potential of fitting an innovative sail technology called Fastrig onto Ultrabulk ships importing biomass into the UK, for cutting both carbon emissions and costs.

Per Lange, CEO of Ultrabulk said: “We are very much looking forward to working with our partners at Drax and Smart Green Shipping Alliance. The feasibility study initiated is very much in line with the environmental focus of Ultrabulk and the shipping industry at large.

“We have made considerable improvements to NOx and SOx emissions; the latter being the focus as in 2019 the SOx emission has to be reduced by 85 per cent. As an industry we are under way to deliver on these limits, but we shall naturally not stop there.

“CO2 still needs to be reduced. As well as the Shipping Industry’s commitment through International Maritime Organisation targets, Ultrabulk is committed to achieving significant additional reductions. The Smart Green Shipping Alliance is an exciting step in that direction.”

Diane Gilpin, CEO and Founder of Smart Green Shipping Alliance said: “This is a project that could really make a difference to the way the industry operates. Drax’s determination to cut carbon emissions creates real demand. Reducing emissions is good business, it saves costs and improves long-term operational certainty. This study aims to find the ‘sweet spot’ between reducing emissions and saving fuel costs.”

The first six months of the project will be a technical feasibility study, establishing the mechanical parameters for retrofitting the Fastrig solution onto ships. The next six months will focus on putting together a business case and calculating detailed costings for the project.  The aim is to retrofit a ship with the Fastrig technology – depending on the outcome of the feasibility study, the launch of the Commercial Demonstrator could be done as soon as 2021.

The technology could drive down not only carbon emissions but also cost, Diane Gilpin explained. “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.”

The SGSA has been pioneering the uptake of renewables in the maritime industry since 2014, identifying wind power as the first choice of exploration. The long-term aim of the company is to develop commercially viable, zero-emission vessels. The eventual aim is to combine renewable energy from wind power with bio-fuels.

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