For Hire: Battery Hybrid PSVs

By William Stoichevski

Systems integrator and equipment maker Rolls-Royce has quietly been adding hybridizing energy-storage packages to a diverse list of vessels. Yet, so, too, has one of its clients — Louisiana-based SEACOR Marine, as it reacts early to tightened emissions and energy-management standards, or EMS, for vessels plying Europe and North America. Fuel savings and energy-company clients seeking green credentials are, it turns out, just part of the upside driving battery retrofits.

The fuel savings to be had for keeping thrusters on battery power are a powerful selling point, to be sure. In Norway alone, price add-ons like carbon-dioxide and sulfur charges helped fire-up fuel costs by about six percent in 2017, the Finance Ministry’s national numbers crunchers report.

Seeking a market advantage for SEACOR vessels, CEO, John Gellert, has seized on fuel-saving battery power. He’s quick to point out the benefits for offshore operators: “The hybridized (offshore service vessel, or OSV) will be offered to support our customers worldwide, having the advantage that while significantly cutting fuel consumption and emissions they are not reliant on existing infrastructures such as those required to support LNG-powered vessels,” he tells Maritime Reporter & Engineering News by email.

In late-January 2018, six of eight platform supply vessels, or PSVs — grouped by SEACOR into the SEACOSCO joint venture with COSCO Shipyard — were cued for Rolls-Royce efficiency upgrades to help them stand out in the market. Among the upgrades these brand-new boats are getting are containerized Corvus battery packs and accompanying Rolls-Royce dynamic-positioning, ACON control and EMS systems.

Rolls-Royce Retrofits
It’s a quiet hybridization that needs some trumpeting, as the benefits of energy storage are key selling points for system integrator and fleet owner.

Although moving in different directions — Rolls-Royce Marine losing money of late but gaining energy-storage and digitalization clients, and Seacore cash-rich but needing to know where potential oil-company clients are heading — neither system operator nor fleet owner have been content to stand still in a still-tough offshore market. Apart from the six, 672 KWh upgrades for SEACOSCO, Rolls-Royce has provided energy storage solutions to six other projects, all medium to large vessels with dynamic positioning. The projects include 1,356 KWh battery systems for two new Hurtigruten coastal steamers and a 200 KWh pack for an upgrade of Island Offshore’s PSV, Island Crusader.

SEACOR has moved quickly too. In 2017, it partnered with Kongsberg to put batteries aboard the Mexico-based SEACOR Maya, which was due for a retrofit in January, when the work scope was enlarged to include battery retrofits for other vessels plying the Gulf of Mexico: SEACOR Azteca, SEACOR Warrior and SEACOR Viking.

SEACOR’s Offer
“The Rolls Royce packages follow on from four systems we have developed with Kongsberg, the first of which will be installed on the SEACOR Maya next month (April 2018) with vessel available from about mid-May, followed thereafter at six weekly intervals for the remaining three,” Gellert says.

“For the six-plus-two (upgrade options) Rolls-Royce packages, (SEACOR) Engineering & Procurement has already started with the first two units scheduled to be in operation by the end of the year, followed at monthly intervals thereafter for the remaining units.”

For Gellert, the yard and Rolls-Royce, it’s a classic case of choosing to organize rather than agonize. The offshore market is still tough. The availability of the newly built, Rolls-Royce UT 771 designs themselves are testimony to how bad things once were. Their former Singapore-based charterers, Chelsea Group, couldn’t pay for them, it seems, and so they were left with the COSCO shipyard. Turning weakness into a sort of strength, the new-builds became the SEACOSCO JV’s starting point. Now, the shipyard has them on the building block or at anchor, and SEACOR fleet operations will take over once Engineering declares all battery projects ready.

The Batt-pack
Since the arrival in Norway of Canadian battery outfits, Corvus and PBES, Rolls-Royce may be the system-integrator that has done the most to ready energy storage for OSVs.

While competitor Siemens has done well electrifying ferry operations, Rolls-Royce is conspicuous for its success with a variety of vessel hybridizations (see table). Apart from partnering with the Canadian battery system suppliers, it recently teamed up with UK energy storage start-up, Superdielectrics, hoping for a “next-generation, high-energy storage technology” based on the “remarkable properties of polymers”.

The University of Bristol estimates that newly discovered polymers have dielectric property values which 1,000-times to 10,000-times greater than conventional electrolyte solutions, company literature says. New energy storage technology superior to existing battery technology is the stated goal of the partnerships, and Superdielectrics’s technology is said to not be reliant on “rare or expensive elements” while potentially offer “higher energy density than both lead-acid and lithium-ion batteries”. But, that’s an aside. Keen to press ahead, Rolls-Royce is supplying the tugboat sector with its first hybrid propulsion arrangement for a tractor tug being built for Baydelta Maritime at Nichols Brothers Boat Builders in Washington State. They’re not alone, there, however, as Dutch electrical firm Werkina and Asto Shipyard are working on a first, large, electric container barge for Port-Liner. Like the SEACOR hybrids, they’re partly aimed at surviving Europe’s “draconian” rules banning emissions in some ports cities and coastal waters.

For now, all system integrators in Norway, at least, are heavily dependent on the production runs of Corvus and PBES batteries. System integrators and ship owners are also heavily reliant on how linked reductions of “environmental impacts” like sulfur-dioxide or “energy costs” become to EMS outside of Europe and North America. The U.S. and Europe have made it clear that these ought to be in place to enable reductions in energy costs, with a battery in-place to get the most of EMS.

Where in force, these international strictures make EMS with energy storage more marketable. For now, that’s Europe and North America, corporate social responsibility is said to also be a driver of energy-management.

Containerized Retrofits
That’ll help make it worth what is understood to be a USD 130 million price tag for all of SEACOSCO builds and conversions understood to be at Singapore and Guangzou, China. These are understood to include the SEACOSCO Amazon and SEACOSCO Ohio originally ordered in 2013-2014 by the Chellsea Group.

The oil price and resulting offshore standstill is understood to have put them out of reach for their original charterers. Green-tech and a containerized Rolls-Royces battery upgrades may be what finally gets them some work.

In all, “It’s a very big order”, a Rolls-Royce source admits, implying, too, that it stands out in the supplier’ orderbook and OSV-owner crowd for its size. But, the retrofit with containerized battery pack is seen as “a way forward” due to its ease of installation. Easing the retrofit, is that all six SEACOSCO vessels were built to a Rolls-Royce design and fitted with a Rolls-Royce equipment package. “They’re packed with Rolls-Royce equipment,” the source says, adding, “We piloted this on the UT 776 CDG vessel Island Crusader using a 200kWh/ 600kW battery container on deck. The batteries tested on this ship were coupled in to investigate load smoothing and peak shaving, and the effect of this on performance and emissions. A key attraction of using a containerized battery is that it can be moved from vessel to vessel to suit different requirements.”

Andreas Seth, SVP of electrical, automation and control for Rolls-Royce says the company can now due more than just hybrid-charging, depending on the vessel’s offshore role: “Vessel operating profile is the key factor when deciding which combination of technologies to use, so we have developed several system solutions, both for part-time and full-time battery operation.” Full-time battery power will capture charterer’s attention, as it did last year, when Statoil decided on hybrid-power PSVs. The chosen fleet was to be retrofitted with battery packs to meet the charter terms.

The IMO says you can work with any Class society to achieve your EMS ISO 50001 standard, with or without batteries. SEACOR went to DNV GL, with its own path to battery power linked to the brains behind Corvus and PBES.

Asked what fuel savings and other fleet-management advantages SEACOR was expecting, Gellert pointed to the data: “As part of work with DNV GL Hybrid Energy in the offshore domain, significant data analysis was carried out for the target vessels, and fuel savings in various operations ranged from 15 to 25 percent with a commensurate reduction in emissions. The other key advantage that we have identified is enhanced dynamic performance particularly in DP and enhanced blackout recovery. We also intend to offer in-port operation on battery-only for limited periods, reducing the significant problem of in-port pollution.” Like every fleet owner or operator in the world, SEACOR has little to no in-house experience handling battery-operated hybrids. Like others, they first point to limited experiences in Norway: “While we have no vessels yet in operation, references from vessels operating in Norway indicate a positive experience. What we believe will be the case is that hybrid vessels will offer our captains and crews a safer and more responsive vessel. DP operations will particularly benefit from this technology.”

The IMO backs that up, reminding the world’s fleet owners and charterers that not only are battery conversions new, but so, too, are the EMS and the still-voluntary ISO 50001 standard that go with them. The best part of hybridization is yet to come, however, as even the IMO indicates a potential future environmental premium, perhaps even trade in marine emissions credits.

(As published in the April 2018 edition of Maritime Reporter & Engineering News)

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 28,  Apr 2018

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