Fu­tur­is­tic sails cut pol­lu­tion

The Maui News - - TODAY’S PEOPLE -

LON­DON (AP) — As the ship­ping in­dus­try faces pres­sure to cut cli­mate-al­ter­ing green­house gases, one an­swer is blow­ing in the wind.

Euro­pean and U.S. tech com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing one backed by air­plane maker Air­bus, are pitch­ing fu­tur­is­tic sails to help cargo ships har­ness the free and end­less sup­ply of wind. While they some­times don’t even look like sails — some are shaped like spin­ning columns — they rep­re­sent a cheap and re­li­able way to re­duce CO2 emis­sions for an in­dus­try that de­pends on a par­tic­u­larly dirty form of fos­sil fu­els.

“It’s an old tech­nol­ogy,” said Tuo­mas Riski, the CEO of Fin­land’s Norse­power, which added its “ro­tor sail” tech­nol­ogy for the first time to a tanker in Au­gust. “Our vi­sion is that sails are com­ing back to the seas.”

Sep­a­rately, A.P. MollerMaersk, which shares the same owner and is the world’s big­gest con­tainer ship­ping com­pany, pledged this week to cut car­bon emis­sions to zero by 2050, which will re­quire de­vel­op­ing com­mer­cially vi­able car­bon neu­tral ves­sels by the end of next decade.

The ship­ping sec­tor’s in­ter­est in “sail tech” and other ideas took on greater ur­gency af­ter the In­ter­na­tional Mar­itime Or­ga­ni­za­tion, the U.N.’s mar­itime agency, reached an agree­ment in April to slash emis­sions by 50 per­cent by 2050.

Ship­ping, like avi­a­tion, isn’t cov­ered by the Paris agree­ment be­cause of the dif­fi­culty at­tribut­ing their emis­sions to in­di­vid­ual na­tions, but en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivists say in­dus­try ef­forts are needed. Ships belch out nearly 1 bil­lion tons of car­bon diox­ide a year, ac­count­ing for 2-3 per­cent of global green­house gases. The emis­sions are pro­jected to grow be­tween 50 to 250 per­cent by 2050 if no ac­tion is taken.

No­to­ri­ously re­sis­tant to change, the ship­ping in­dus­try is fac­ing up to the need to cut its use of cheap but dirty “bunker fuel” that pow­ers the global fleet of 50,000 ves­sels — the back­bone of world trade.

The IMO is tak­ing aim more broadly at pol­lu­tion, re­quir­ing ships to start us­ing low-sul­fur fuel in 2020 and send­ing ship own­ers scram­bling to in­vest in smoke­stack scrub­bers, or look­ing at cleaner but pricier dis­til­late fu­els.

A Dutch group, the Good­ship­ping Pro­gram, is try­ing bio­fuel, which is made from or­ganic mat­ter. It re­fu­eled a con­tainer ves­sel in Septem­ber with 22,000 liters of used cook­ing oil, cut­ting car­bon diox­ide emis­sions by 40 tons.

In Nor­way, ef­forts to elec­trify mar­itime ves­sels are gath­er­ing pace, high­lighted by the launch of the world’s first al­l­elec­tric pas­sen­ger ferry, Fu­ture of the Fjords, in April. Chem­i­cal maker Yara is mean­while plan­ning to build a bat­tery­pow­ered au­tonomous con­tainer ship to ferry fer­til­izer be­tween plant and port.

Bat­ter­ies are ef­fec­tive for coastal ship­ping, though not for long-dis­tance sea voy­ages, so the in­dus­try will need to con­sider other “en­ergy car­ri­ers” gen­er­ated from re­new­able power, such as hy­dro­gen or am­mo­nia.

Maersk Tankers photo via AP

Fin­nish startup com­pany Norse­power in­stalled its ro­tor sail tech­nol­ogy on the Maersk Pel­i­can tanker this sum­mer in Rot­ter­dam, Nether­lands, as the ship­ping in­dus­try tries new so­lu­tions in an ef­fort to cut green­house gas emis­sions. The 98-foot deck-mounted spin­ning columns con­vert wind into thrust.

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