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Tanker vessel used wind propulsion technology

Two 30-metre tall rotor sails have been installed onboard the product tanker vessel Maersk Pelican targeting a reduction in fuel cost and associated emissions on typical global shipping routes of 7-10%.

Testing begins on product tanker vessel utilising wind propulsion technology

Norsepower Oy, together with project partners Maersk Tankers, Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and Shell Shipping & Maritime, announced the installation of two Norsepower Rotor Sails onboard Maersk Pelican, a Maersk Tankers Long Range 2 (LR2) product tanker vessel.

The rotor sails are large, cylindrical mechanical sails that spin to create a pressure differential – called the Magnus effect – that propels the vessel forward. The rotor sails will provide auxiliary wind propulsion to the vessel, optimising fuel efficiency by reducing fuel consumption and associated emissions by an expected 7-10% on typical global shipping routes.

The rotor sails are one of the world’s largest at 30 metres tall by five metres in diameter and were installed on the product tanker vessel in the port of Rotterdam. The first voyage with the rotor sails installed will commence shortly.

Norsepower Rotor Sail Solution – long presentation video

Video of Norsepower Rotor Sail Solution – long presentation video

“This project is breaking ground in the product tanker industry. While the industry has gone through decades of technological development, the use of wind propulsion technology onboard a product tanker vessel could take us to a new playing field. This new technology has the potential to help the industry be more cost-competitive as it moves cargoes around the world for customers and to reduce the environmental impact,” said Tommy Thomassen, Chief Technical Officer, Maersk Tankers.

The rotor sails have completed rigorous land testing, including thorough testing of various mechanical and performance criteria, and is the first rotor sails to be Class approved for use on a product tanker vessel. Extensive measurement and evaluation of the effectiveness of the rotor sails will now take place to test the long-term financial and technical viability of the technology. Independent experts from Lloyd’s Register’s (LR’s) Ship Performance team will acquire and analyse the performance data during the test phase to ensure an impartial assessment before technical and operational insights as well as performance studies are published.

Rotor sail history and principle:
In the early 20th century, scientists proposed using the Magnus effect to propel ships. German engineer Anton Flettner replaced 420 square meters of sail cloth on the schooner Buckau with two 15-meter-tall steel rotor sails, which were set spinning using a small engine. Flettner showed that wind traveling around the Buckau’s rotor sails created a force on the sides of the rotor sails that propelled the ship forward. In 1926, the Buckau crossed the Atlantic Ocean. However, Flettner failed to find investors interested in rotor sail–powered ships. Fuel prices were simply too low and there were no environmental regulations limiting ship emissions.

But the economic breeze may be freshening for sail power. Today, more than 90% of goods are carried over the ocean, and the Chinese port of Shanghai alone saw 36 million containers pass through in 2015. All that commerce comes at an environmental price: Most vessels burn heavy fuel oil, producing heat-trapping carbon dioxide as well as soot and sulfur compounds that contribute to acid rain. “The shipping industry is under increased pressure to reduce emissions,” says Tuomas Riski, CEO of Norsepower Oy Ltd., a clean technology and engineering company headquartered in Helsinki.

Norsepower has developed a rotor sail based on Flettner’s original design but updated with modern materials such as carbon and glass fibers that cut its weight by a factor of three. That means less electricity is required to spin the rotor, which translates into more efficient propulsion. Norsepower’s design is also linked to software that adjusts a rotor’s rate of rotation—up to several hundred revolutions per minute—to maximize forward thrust.

The surface of the rotating cylinder drags air with it, which deflects the air passing by the cylinder. Because the cylinder pushes the air to one side, the air must in turn push the cylinder the opposite way, thanks to Isaac Newton’s dictum that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Thus the rotating cylinder experiences a lift force perpendicular to the direction of the wind. (Source MFame / AAAS)


Andrew Scott, Programme Manager HDV marine and offshore renewable energy, ETI explained:

“We commissioned this project to provide a unique opportunity to demonstrate the untapped potential of Rotor Sails. Auxiliary wind propulsion is one of the few fuel-saving technologies that is expected to offer double-digit percentage improvements. The technology is projected to be particularly suitable for tankers and dry bulk carriers, and this test will assist in determining the further potential for Rotor Sails in the product tanker industry.”

Tuomas Riski, CEO, Norsepower, added: 

“With this installation on the Maersk Pelican, there are now three vessels in daily commercial operation using Norsepower’s Rotor Sails. Each of these cases represents a very different vessel type and operational profile, demonstrating the widespread opportunity to harness the wind through Flettner rotors across the maritime industry.”

Dr. Grahaeme Henderson, Vice-President, Shell Shipping & Maritime, concluded:

“The shipping industry faces a major challenge in how it can economically ship the increasing amounts of goods and energy the world demands, whilst lowering its environmental impact. We see significant advantages in embracing, testing and driving innovative technologies that we believe show real promise in helping the shipping industry meet this challenge.”

Norsepower’s rotor sail solution is the first data-verified and commercially operational auxiliary wind propulsion technology available for the global maritime industry. When wind conditions are favourable the main engines can be throttled back, saving fuel and reducing emissions, while maintaining speed and voyage time. Each Norsepower Rotor Sail is made using lightweight composite sandwich materials, which ensure the rotor sail remains well-balanced and offers a hi-tech, low maintenance solution.

Companies: Maersk Tankers

Industries: Marine Transportation and Shipbuilding

Terms: Applications, Innovations, News Worldwide

This article has been edited by Basalt.Today
This article has been written on JEC Composites Magazine
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