Explaining how the concept could work, ABB head of China Marine & Ports Alf Kaare Aadnanes told Seatrade Maritime News that the first step in this process would be to switch to an electric main propulsion system. This would simplify the whole process since all the vessel’s power requirements would be based on electric.
“The good thing about electric propulsion is that you can combine a lot of these energy sources and storage into one system to utilise the best of each when you need it. This gives you the maximum amount of flexibility,” he pointed out.
For example the power could come from an integrated fuel cell package or solar or any combination of clean sources of energy or normal diesel generators if necessary. The system would then redistribute the energy based on the vessel’s power demands. “We can choose which is the most effective and which fits that vessel’s area of operations best,” Aadnanes said.
ABB is involved in the system integration for these new platforms as well as the propulsion and related automation systems but will work with other vendors on the energy storage and generation technologies such as fuel cells and batteries.
On the use of LNG, Aadnanes saw good potential going forward. ABB is also active in this segment because LNG use fits well with electrical propulsion systems. “Both the technical characteristics and the environmental footprint of a gas engine is significantly better if it has an electric configuration rather than a conventional mechanical configuration,” Aadnanes said.
He is also encouraged by the investments and initiatives that are being made in places such as Singapore for example, to prepare for LNG infrastructure and bunkering systems. “When this infrastructure is in place then I believe that the shipping lines will also move over,” he noted.
“The opportunity is that they have to meet the new regulations,” he pointed out. “There might be other opportunities as well but LNG is certainly a technically and commercially viable solution today,” he concluded.