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New Megatrends in Naval Architecture

Decarbonization and digitalization are two sides of the same coin.

Image courtesy of Uzmar
Image courtesy of Uzmar

Published Jul 23, 2022 7:36 PM by Sean M. Holt

(Article originally published in May/June 2022 edition.)

New megatrends in naval architecture are reinvigorating the industry with a focus on decarbonization (reducing emissions) and digitalization (optimization of operations). These megatrends are substantively complementary and referred to by many as "two sides of the same coin." 

Driven by technology, regulation, sustainable investing and even space travel, countless projects are under way. Here’s a small sampling of some of the more exciting activities.

A Lighter Footprint

Norway-based Stena Power & LNG Solutions has developed a complete LNG transfer solution as an alternative to the conventional jetty and Floating Storage & Regasification Unit (FSRU) configuration. Its semi-submersible Jettyless Floating Terminal (JFT) – capable of transferring LNG, LPG, ammonia (NH3), liquefied hydrogen (LH2) and liquefied CO2 – eliminates fixed handling equipment, trestle bridges and environmentally damaging breakwaters. Instead, ship-to-ship transfer of LNG via JFT is stored on a cheaper Floating Storage Unit (FSU). 

Regasification (converting LNG from a liquid to a gaseous state through heat exchange) may occur on Self-installing Regas Platforms (SRP) and then transferred to carrier vessels or ashore via subsea connections. Situating regas units offshore provides natural advantages for cooler ambient air vaporizers in warm climates and submerged combustion vaporizers in cold climates. In addition, SRP units can be retrofitted for carbon capture.

Compared to fixed onshore terminals, the cost savings is said to be at least forty percent and can go from contract to operation within 20 months. The modular and scalable design provides a quicker gas-to-market capability; can be located clear of busy ports and shipping lanes; allows for unit replacement and easy decommissioning/relocation, and is tsunami- and earthquake-resistant. 

As an added benefit, 300 to 600 MW Self-Installing Power Platforms (SPPs) and Integrated Power Barges (IPBs) can produce up to 60 million liters per day of desalinated drinking water – enough for a small city!

Stena’s 2035 vision enables the transition and production of “green” liquefied hydrogen (LH2) by integrating offshore wind. Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen via electrolysis using power from wind, solar or hydroelectricity. The hydrogen is captured for use, and the oxygen is vented into the atmosphere without negative impact. 

Eventually, the existing natural gas/LNG infrastructure can be removed and recycled. Such a configuration lessens the environmental footprint, enables wider geographic access to clean energy sources and supplies underserviced regions. 

Having completed Full Front-End Engineering & Design (FEED) including class approval, Stena's JFT and SRP were recently awarded a contract with Singapore-based Delta Offshore Energy. The infrastructure project will provide energy to a 3,200 MW power plant in Vietnam's Bac Lieu province in the Mekong Delta, some 40 km off Vietnam's shoreline. The project will help create an alternative energy supply while protecting coastal shrimp farms, mangroves and salt beds. 

Green Power 

As part of its global market strategy, Turkey's UZMAR Shipyard plans to replace its entire fleet of tugboats with eco-friendly newbuilds. UZMAR and Robert Allan Ltd. have signed an agreement to design and build a series of four new methanol-fueled tugboats beginning in Q4 2022. The vessels will have an overall length of 25 meters (82 feet) to 32 meters (105 feet) and include one tractor tug design.  Their improved energy efficiency will significantly reduce annual CO2 emissions. 

"According to our research that has been ongoing for more than five years,” says UZMAR's CEO, Ahmet Altug, “our team believes that the most applicable, clean and efficient energy choice for tugboats is methanol."

In May, naval architecture firm Glosten and Hornblower Energy announced a partnership for the first green maritime hydrogen fueling station in the U.S. The three-year project will integrate a floating platform, green hydrogen production via hydroelectricity, and storage and fueling capabilities of up to 530 kg per day at Pier 68 in San Francisco Bay. 

"Building out the hydrogen ecosystem on the waterfront will be critical to enabling the growth of zero-emission, hydrogen-fueled vessels on our waterways,” notes Glosten Senior Marine Engineer Sean Caughlan. “That's a win for our industry, our air quality and our climate." Fueling is expected to be available by 2024 to vessels such as the Sea Change and Discovery Zero.

Better Design Decisions

For insights on design decisions, we talked to Donald MacPherson, Technical Director at U.S.-based HydroComp, a leader in applied hydrodynamics and propeller design. 

"For us, everything is a system problem first and a component problem second,” he says. “When designing for production, everything is a component problem to make it all fit. But when looking at the hydrodynamic and propulsion systems simulation world, it must be looked at as a system. Over the last two decades, regulating emissions through ship performance is becoming a significant design element." 

MacPherson emphasizes that discussions are often misguided by focusing on components, such as energy-saving devices, while missing the value of a systems-first perspective. "As tool developers, we answer system questions to help make better business decisions."

To illustrate what he means, he provides an example: "What’s the hull shape I need? That has to be locked in early since it affects the layout, compartmentalization, cargo capacity, speed, resistance and power of the vessel. It’s similar to choosing a drive system and fixing that early. Is it going to be diesel-hybrid/electric, LNG or dual-fuel? We like to solve puzzles and make models through simulations such as reducing ship resistance and better flow for the propeller." 

Although getting solid quantitative feedback from operators on vessel performance after delivery is difficult, HydroComp says one hull improvement and propeller flow design project for a 
ro-ro/passenger fleet in the Mediterranean saved 3,000 metric tons of CO2 per vessel per year.

Digital Twin for the Win

Discussing the evolution of 2D printed design plans to a 3D model with geometric information at its core, Dr. Volker Bertram, Senior Project Manager at class society DNV, comments, "That's the backbone of a lot of other fun stuff: virtual reality, simulations, computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and finite element analysis (FEA)." 

He says the new buzzword, “Digital Twin,” has the vision to evolve over time: “For example, as a classification society, we would have thickness measurements of steel plates and how much is left or wasted. We input that data into the digital twin model and then can simulate or mimic the physical asset getting older and weaker. Now there has been a collision. Let's run an update on the finite element model to see how much strength is left. Will we end up ripping the vessel apart if we attach a tug or line?"

Bertram continues, "If we have the ‘as-designed’ aspect of the ship in the form of the 3D construction model, but then the ship is built, but not quite ‘as-designed,’ we can use laser scanning to update the actual geometry. That, very daringly, would require passing the 3D models from the shipyard to the owner or recreating it from the owner's side. Then, as the ship evolves, like adding a scrubber, we update that in the computer model. Following modifications and retrofits gives us near-real time ‘as-is’ condition-based monitoring.”

When asked what the primary purpose of the digital twin is, Bertram's response is "better decision-making." He concludes, "The beauty is being able to explore 'what if' scenarios such as those that affect fuel efficiencies. What if I don't do hull cleaning now? Where will I be in three months on my fuel consumption?" According to the Clean Shipping Coalition, fouled hulls cost the industry as much as $30 billion annually.

Presently, in the shipyards of Singapore, reality-capture digital twins are being implemented for construction management and condition assessment. Referred to as a “single source of truth” or “unified collaboration platform,” CupixWorks ingests reality capture from laser/LiDAR, 2D, 360° and drone imagery and compares it to 3D design and Building Information Modules (BIM) from software such as Autodesk (Revit & Navisworks), ProCore or Primavera.

Joshua Bibb, Director of Strategy & Business Development, explains, "Cupix is the only 360° capture solution that understands 3D and aligns images geospatially (X, Y and Z axes), providing accurate context to all images. The result is a Google Street View-like experience of your vessel/asset. In addition, you can compare multiple dates and BIM models, make annotations and automatically track progress through artificial intelligence and augmented reality. Cupix is a tool that enables naval architects to assess design intent versus ‘as-built,’ ‘as-installed’ or ‘as-in service,’ as well as efficiently address or rectify issues with dispersed teams, all without having to set foot on the physical vessel/asset.”

Ad Astra Per Aspera 

Interested in a career in naval architecture and space? SpaceX recently posted jobs for "marine engineer" and "naval architect." It will design and develop new marine launch and recovery systems for the Starship program. The oil rigs, now named Phobus and Deimos (moons of Mars), will support Elon Musk's red planet ambitions.  

With all the advancements and activities in the works, naval architecture has never been this cool. – MarEx

Regular contributor Sean Holt is based in Singapore and may be involved in some of the companies mentioned in his column.  

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.