ABS and MARIN Launch Study on Wind-Assisted Propulsion

An Eco Flettner brand rotor on the coastal freighter Fehn Pollux (file image)

Published Jul 12, 2019 9:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

ABS and Dutch research institute MARIN have launched a confidential industry project to develop methods to validate the performance of modern wind propulsion technologies. The program covers most of the wind-assisted ship propulsion systems on the market today, and its sponsors hope to overcome barriers to adoption by reducing the uncertainty about wind power's potential. 

“As the regulatory framework increases pressure to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the time is right to explore the potential of wind to generate savings on emissions, fuel and cost. This project has significant potential to reduce barriers to the adoption of sustainable wind propulsion technologies and make a positive contribution to achieving the IMO 2030 and 2050 objectives,” said Gurinder Singh, ABS Global Sustainability Director. 

The project partnership will operate for two years, and its results will remain confidential for another three to five years after its conclusion. Participating industry and academic partners in the venture include the China Ship Scientific Research Center, Vale SA, Delft University of Technology, Dykstra Naval Architects, Berge Bulk and FinOcean Ltd. Flettner rotor startups Anemoi, Norsepower and Eco Flettner and wing sail startup Computed Wing Sail have joined as well. 

Wind-assisted propulsion technologies augment the power of the ship's engine through the use of sails or related devices, converting the kinetic energy of the wind into thrust. The vessel still uses conventional propulsion, but at a reduced rate of fuel consumption. In one recent DNV GL project on the precommercial Eco Flettner rotor design, a prototype unit on a small coastal freighter exceeded power expectations of about 100 kW (130 HP) and 10-20 percent fuel savings in medium wind conditions. The technology's performance varies depending upon vessel speed, wind speed and wind orientation, making it more suitable for some trade routes than others. 

“A major barrier to use of wind energy on board is the shortage of transparent and independently verified methods to predict the performance of wind propulsors. A reliable model will assist in adoption, as the profitability of an investment is in a subjective realm of wide-spread opinions," Patrick Hooijmans, MARIN senior project manager for ships. "Furthermore, the industry can use examples and custom work to demonstrate compliance with statutory and class rules and regulations."