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Four examples of Norwegian battery brilliance

Shipping connects the world like the body's circulatory system. Norwegian ships have been a major player on the world's oceans for several hundred years, and our foreign fleet alone currently consists of more than 2,300 ships. The problem is that these operate on heavy oil, diesel and petrol, and cannot continue to do so. Fortunately, there are solutions and Norway has some of the foremost experts in this area. Can batteries be part of the answer to how the shipping industry can help to build, instead of impede, the road to a sustainable future?

 Riktig topp batterier

"The future of the shipping industry is hybrid"

"And that won't change any time soon."

That is Arnstein Eknes's answer to the question of how ship technology will develop in the coming years – and he has grounds for saying this. Eknes has worked for DNV GL (formerly Det Norske Veritas) for 25 years. For the first 10 years, he approved ships, mainly in offshore, shipping and newbuild projects, and he was then DNV GL's country manager for Finland and the Baltics for a few years before being appointed segment director for special and offshore ships in DNV GL.

"For the past 10 years, my job has mainly been to monitor what is happening in the market in relation to special and offshore ships and at the same time to connect people in the market with DNV GL employees who can deliver smarter solutions for tomorrow's market. To a certain extent, I must be able to predict trends and changes that affect our customers, the market and us. I've spent a lot of time following up future technologies that the company and I believe will be a success and which can be used in much more than just one segment," he says.

Storing energy is a key factor for managing to use renewable energy. Arnstein points to a future in shipping where heavy oil and diesel will be replaced by alternative fuels such as LNG and others, as well as by the greater use of batteries.

And the greater use of batteries is something that interests Sondre Henningsgård, a senior consultant with DNV Maritime Advisory. He is also the managing director of the Maritime Battery Forum (MBP), which is not part of DNV GL but is an independent professional body that DNV GL is a member of. Due to his expertise and knowledge of battery technology, Sondre's advice is in demand and he receives questions from all over the world about what is worth doing. 

"Many people wonder what will change if they start to use batteries now. It's often the case that if you can afford to make an investment that may be expensive now, it will produce financial gains later on. In my experience, the shipping industry often has an "either/or" mentality, and many people believe they will have to use batteries for everything once they start using this type of technology. What we want to achieve is more people realizing the room for opportunities and combinations. Once you have access to batteries, you'll quickly discover they can help improve almost all other energy processes on board. They provide the ability and opportunity to balance something that you couldn't before," he says.

Sondre and Arnstein point out the Libas, North Sea Giant, Yara Birkeland and Future of the Fjords as good examples of ships that have implemented battery technology. This is why:

Arnstein Eknes
Arnstein Eknes.
Sondre Henningsgård
Sondre Henningsgård.
Libas

1: Libas 

The first gas- and battery-driven fishing boat
  • Size: 86m x 17.8m
  • Shipowner: Liafjord AS
  • Building period: two years
  • Cost: NOK 300 million
The Libas will be a boat unlike any other built before in the same category. It will be equipped with a 350-cubic-metre LNG tank that, together with a large battery pack, will provide power for propulsion and to operate equipment.

"The Libas will also have a special system for cushioning rolling that will in practice recover energy from the movement and convert it into electricity. Fishing boats often have winches and equipment that may have to be started quickly and require widely varying amounts of power, and batteries are better suited to these operating modes than LNG engines, which don't like rapid changes in loads as much," says Arnstein.

North Sea Giant

2: North Sea Giant 

One of the world's biggest, most advanced construction ships

  • Size: 160.9m x 30m
  • Owner: North Sea Giant AS
  • Building period: modifications taking around two months
  • Cost: NOK 70 million

In February, the North Sea Giant was ready after having been modified for hybrid operations (diesel-electric). The ship will now save two million litres of fuel a year by using three battery packs producing a total of 2 MWh. Emissions and costs will be cut by 30 per cent.

"In the offshore sector, we've seen many examples of the use of batteries. According to the Maritime Battery Forum's register, around 40 offshore vessels have already installed or will install batteries. If you are wondering whether batteries are a recognized technology that can be trusted, just look to the offshore industry. It has extremely stringent safety and redundancy requirements – and is now choosing batteries. The North Sea Giant is a very special and advanced ship and the fact that batteries have now been chosen for this ship is a declaration of faith in the technology," says Sondre.

Yara Birkeland

3: Yara Birkeland

The world's first autonomous container ship

  • Size: 79.5m x 14.8m
  • Owner: Yara
  • Building period: two years (fully autonomous by 2022) 
  • Cost: around NOK 250 million

A fully electric autonomous ship is being built for the first time in history – and in Norway! The propulsion and manoeuvring will be handled by an electric system consisting of a battery pack producing 6.8 MWh, two electric Azipods and two tunnel thrusters.

"A project like the Yara Birkeland is difficult to carry out somewhere other than in Norway.  We have a culture of close cooperation between players and a great willingness to adapt general rules to the opportunities that good technology can provide. Fully electric operations reduce the need for many mechanical support systems on board, and operating in coastal areas with good communication systems means that remote steering can be introduced under safe conditions. It is important that the authorities are supporting this project in which Yara and Kongsberg are main players, since it requires changes to be made both onshore and at sea. The project is attracting a lot of international attention and demonstrates that new technology allows completely new ways to operate ships," says Arnstein.

Future of the Fjords electric ferry

4: Future of the Fjords

The world's first fully electric tourist ferry

  • Size: 42.49m x 15.20 m
  • Owner: Flåm AS and Fjord1
  • Building period: in operation since May 2018 
  • Cost: NOK 144 million

At first glance, it may appear that a miniature version of the Norwegian opera house is bobbing around when the Future of the Fjords is out on a trip, but the inspiration for the zig-zag design was actually Rallarvegen, an old cycle path in the west of Norway. Under the hull lie two battery packs producing a total of 1.8 MWh that soundlessly drive this carbon-fibre structure using two electric permanent-magnet engines, each with an output of 450 kW.

"This vessel is a good example of new technology being used to provide an extraordinary experience and effectively stop emissions in a World Heritage fjord. There is something special about standing on board this vessel and gliding soundlessly and emission-free through the Nærøy Fjord. The fully electric ship is also recharged via its own battery quay. This can be an inspiration for ports worldwide. The local power grid can't deliver the output necessary to charge the ship quickly enough, but this problem is resolved by the gradual recharging of a battery bank," says Sondre. 

DNV GL provides a lot of insight

Working for DNV GL gives both Sondre and Arnstein a unique insight into the goings-on in the maritime sector.

"Right now, two revolutions are taking place at the same time: communication between systems - everything that can be connected internally or to other systems, and our views on energy usage," says Arnstein.

"Access to information today is really extraordinary compared to what it was when I was a student, for example. Information sharing has changed from being linear and difficult to always being available. This is also linked to how we use energy, because when things can be connected, energy can be used in a new way." 

"Right now, two revolutions are taking place at the same time: communication between systems - everything that can be connected internally or to other systems, and our views on energy usage," says Arnstein Eknes, Segment Manager Offshore Special Ships in Maritime, DNV GL

An important way to make the shipping industry more environmentally friendly is to move away from using and consuming power on board and start to use the opportunities that batteries provide for intermediate storage, improving energy efficiency and the interaction between systems that can work better together if they are simply allowed to do so.

"That's where we come in and this greatly affects what I work on," says Sondre.

"The combination of knowledge about specific technologies and domain knowledge is important when we are working on batteries and alternative fuels. Although a lot of information can be googled, it's difficult to obtain experience and broad knowledge across domains just through this," he says.

 Both Sondre and Arnstein say that DNV GL cultivates experience and sharing it across the organization.

"I'm very pleased about the way we can share information internally. You don't need to just be in one silo, you have access to people with experience in various knowledge areas. And it's great when new technologies are introduced and challenge the old ones," says Arnstein.

With current technology, the answer required does not always have to be definite, it may just be an assessment of what is best for the purpose.   The collective desire to make the shipping industry more sustainable is becoming increasingly easy to fulfil, and with its huge amount of knowledge and expertise DNV GL wants to be there for every single green step.