North America’s First Hybrid LNG/Battery Ferry

This story is about hybrid boats, a subject that I have been following for many years. However, when I see the word “hybrid” I still think first of a really efficient, low-emission passenger car like the Toyota Prius, the world’s first mass-produced hybrid. This breakthrough design happens to be 20 years old this year, and four million of them have been sold. They are now fitted with an 1800 cc petrol engine, a 120 lbs battery bank, and an electric motor—the combination getting 50 mpg on the highway, and creeping silently around parking lots in electric mode.

In contrast, the total number of hybrid boats on the water is likely no more than a few hundred: you may reasonably wonder why the boating industry hasn’t taken advantage of this technology and marinized it. The reason is that the typical power boat gets very little use compared to a car, and has a lot of hydro-dynamic resistance to overcome at higher than displacement (low) speeds. So the weight, expense and complexity of a hybrid drive make it a less than compelling eco-option.

The best candidate for a marine hybridization turns out to be the complete opposite of a typical motor boat–a big ferry that can handle a large, heavy battery bank and runs daily on a short route. That gives it a chance to use the low power electric drive several times a day when maneuvering, and to boost the speed if it is heavily loaded or running behind schedule.

There are quite a few ferry routes on the Salish Sea that fit those conditions, but the ferry services of Washington and British Columbia are already dependent on government funds to make up their operating losses and pay for new construction. So they aren’t about to take any risks by adopting expensive emerging technologies to make an ecological statement.

But Seaspan Ferries is a private corporation that operates a drop-trailer service on the 40-nautical mile crossing between British Columbia’s Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island with three roll-on/roll-off ferries and four articulated tug and barge units. They carry more than 800 trailers a day, over 50% of all cargo to Vancouver Island, and needed to increase their capacity.

First with LNG Fuel and Lithium-Ion Batteries

Seaspan wanted a concept that would reduce its greenhouse gas emissions dramatically while delivering the highest level of efficiency, performance and reliability. Naval architects VARD is one of the major global designers and shipbuilders of offshore and specialized vessels. With headquarters in Norway, the company has extensive experience in alternative power systems becomng popular in Scandinavia. VARD produced the designs for the first diesel-electric hybrid vehicle ferry in North America—the 488′ x 85′Seaspan Swift–capable of transporting 59 trailers (double the existing boats) six crew and 12 passengers. Loaded displacement is 6,750 tonnes.

Seaspan‘s Shipyard is one of the most modern in North America after being completely upgraded with over US $120 million worth of infrastructure to construct Canada‘s new National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy Non-Combat vessels. But it is fully booked for the next five to seven years and is presently outfitting the first 282′ Offshore Oceanographic Science Vessel.

So the contract for two identical vessels classified by Bureau Veritas ,was put out to bid and was won by Sedef Shipyard in Istanbul, the biggest yard in Turkey. The first arrived after an eight-week journey that spanned a total of 10,660 nautical miles. The second, Seaspan Reliant, is due in the spring.

The heart and soul of the new ferries is their main engines–twin 9L34DF dual fuel engines by Finnish company Wärtsilä coupled to constant-speed 1050VDC generators with Wärtsilä LNGPac fuel systems. The combination produces 9,000 kW at 750 rpm at the two azimuthing (z) drives for a max. speed of 16 knots. Dual Fuel engines burn diesel for the primary ignition and liquid natural gas for combustion. The LNG tank is re-fueled by a tanker truck that drives on board before the ship is loaded.

The three Salish Class vessels are being built at Remontowa Shipbuilding S.A. in Gdansk, Poland and the first is scheduled to be in service for the summer of 2017. These new vessels are capable of running as dual-fuel on either natural gas or ultra-low Sulphur diesel. Use of natural gas will result in the reduction of an estimated 9,000 metric tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per year, which is the same as taking 1,900 passenger vehicles off the road annually. The Salish Orca arrived in BC in mid-January and by spring it will be in service between Comox and Powell River, replacing the 51-year-old Queen of Burnaby.

Washington State Ferries (WSF) has been conducting analysis, evaluation and detailed studies on  the viability of using LNG as a source of fuel for our fleet. LNG is used world-wide in marine applications and provides an opportunity to reduce fuel costs, and better the environment by decreasing emissions WSF issued an RFP for a design and build contract to convert the propulsion system of a maximum of six Issaquah Class auto / passenger ferries:from diesel fuel to LNG-only fuel or to dual diesel and LNG fuel.

INFO–LNG is the same fuel used to heat our homes and cook our meals. LNG is natural gas that has been cooled to -256 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point it is condensed into a colorless, odorless, non-toxic and non-corrosive liquid. In its liquefied form it occupies 1/640th of its original volume, which makes it easier to transport and store.

Corvus—an Emerging NW Company

The battery banks consist of 84 Corvus Energy AT6500 advanced lithium –ion polymer packs storing 546kW hours. The complete package is called the Energy Storage System (ESS) and does not require active cooling techniques such as liquid cooling to be effective. Corvus is an up-and-coming Canadian business based in Richmond, BC near the US border.

Founded in 2009, the company focused on developing batteries that could withstand the wet, corrosive environment of the ocean. Since then, it has come to dominate the marine market, with 25 MWh of its batteries currently being used in 35 ships across Northern Europe, and recently received an investment from Statoil, Norway’s largest offshore oil company.

Norway is where more and more ferries and oil-service ships are running either partially or entirely on battery power. Some ferries on fjords in remote areas dock at small ports that are supplied with electric power from local streams, and make the crossing on 100% electrical power and plug in to re-charge until they start the return trip. Norway is such an important market that Corvus has opened an office there.

We’ve got the largest install base, by far, in marine – something approaching 70% of the installed base in the marine and offshore world is Corvus,” said Corvus CEO Andrew Morden.”We’re very pleased to have our product deployed locally for the first time.” There is an ESS on the new 83.50-meter prize-winning Feadship mega-yacht Savannah, and the company has also supplied lithium-ion batteries for a number of other transportation sectors, including trains, trucks and submarines. Morden thinks there is a big potential market for energy storage in offshore wind farms, trains and light-rail systems.

Boeing Echo Voyager

Boeing recently announced the addition of Echo Voyager to its fleet of unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) developed by their research and development division, Phantom Works. It joins the 18-foot Echo Ranger and 32-foot Echo Seeker, which can stay at sea for only a few days before being re-charged by a surface ship. Echo Voyager is capable of operating autonomously at sea for months at a time due to its hybrid rechargeable power system supported by a lithium-ion energy storage solution from Corvus Energy.

The Corvus ESS powers Echo Voyager for a few days before using an onboard diesel generator to recharge the batteries. “We have been an extremely proud contributor to Boeing’s UUV programs for several years now and are excited to be able to share this news with the industry” says Andrew Morden.  Echo Voyager will undergo sea trials this summer. Future missions could include scientific, military or oil and gas exploration.

132-foot Bay Area Brigantine Matthew Turner

 The San Francisco Bay Area non-profit, Educational Tall Ship Program, ordered a 100kWh energy storage system (ESS) from Corvus Energy as a part of a hybrid electric propulsion system on board its new, 132-foot sailing ship, the Matthew Turner, which is currently under construction in Sausalito.

The Educational Tall Ship Program together with a sister organization, Call of the Sea, are both dedicated to utilizing tall ships to provide on-the-water education for local students, including classes in sailing, marine ecology and maritime history. The Matthew Turner will be the second tall ship in the fleet, joining the 82-foot Schooner Seaward.

The Corvus Energy ESS will be combined with an electric propulsion system designed and installed by BAE Systems. When the ship is under sail, the energy of the passing water will cause the propellers to rotate, which, in turn, will cause the electric motors to become generators that re-charge the Corvus ESS. The ship will also be charged from the grid and solar panels when at the dock. Under power, the ship will be propelled by electric motors directly connected to the propeller shafts and drawing energy from the Corvus ESS, instead of diesel engines.

This entry was posted in Commercial boats, Shipyards and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *