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Wednesday, January 12, 2022 

System integrators Bakker Sliedrecht and RH Marine intend to develop a new electrical system that will enable vessels to sail on methanol and other zero-emission fuels, aiming for future vessels to sail more sustainably, more efficiently, more safely and more reliably.

Together with 20 other partners, the two sister companies are part of a maritime consortium that has received €24m in government subsidy for research within the MENENS (Methanol as Energy Step Towards Zero-Emission Dutch Shipping) programme, being conducted over the next four years. Participants include research institutes, shipowners, dredging and offshore companies, yacht builders, shipyards and suppliers are participating in the consortium. “The idea behind the MENENS project is that the industry itself is in the lead,” said Despoina Mitropoulou of RH Marine and Arend van der Velde of Bakker Sliedrecht.

MENENS is intended to accelerate the use of methanol as a low-carbon fuel within the Dutch shipping industry. This will result in a major reduction in CO2 emissions over the current use of diesel. Methanol is internationally regarded as one of the most feasible clean fuels for large-scale application in shipping. The consortium will retrofit two different vessel types to test the viability of methanol fuel systems and will study six different future use cases with different operational profiles. By 2030, there are expected to be 30 zero-emission ships in operation.

As part of the project, a new electrical system for ships will be designed and developed by Bakker Sliedrecht and RH Marine for dredging and offshore vessels, yachts and naval vessels. Coordinator of the MENENS program is Fugro, which aims to have its survey vessel Fugro Pioneer sailing on methanol by 2023. That ship will be used as a test ship in the coming years. Bakker Sliedrecht and RH Marine, together with research institute MARIN (Maritime Research Institute Netherlands) and TNO, are setting up a virtual field lab where new technologies can be tested and validated.

Conventional electrical installations and equipment of ships run on AC-power. DC-power systems are also used on board, but are less common. As methanol cannot achieve the same dynamic response in the engines as with diesel, batteries or super capacitors have to be used to compensate. The same is valid when fuel cells running on methanol will be used as the main source of power. They run on DC-power and therefore the entire power plant on board will be designed as a DC network.

Van der Velde said: “The power plant reacts differently to methanol than to diesel or LNG. In order to guarantee a good performance, we must design a power plant to which you can connect both a fuel cell, a battery and a methanol ICE generator.”

The main benefit of a DC network is lower power loss. Now, converters or frequency drives convert AC to DC and DC back to AC. In a DC network, the inverter only needs to convert the electricity to AC once for the machines and devices. With fewer converters, power losses are lower, as well as saving space and weight.

The new system design will allow new components to be added in the future, independent of the fuel generation. Digitalisation will play an important role and Industrial Internet of Things (IIOT) components will be deployed and installed, allowing more data to be collected and analysed.

Mitropoulou said: “We want to design a system that is as independent as possible of the future fuel source. For example, besides on methanol engines or fuel cells, it must also be able to run on hydrogen engines or fuel cells as well. Thus, we can design a system that is smarter, safer, more efficient and more reliable.”

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