Innovative engineering ideas and green technologies for inland vessels: a short summary
Theoretically there are many possibilities for alternative fuels (Liquefied Natural Gas, Compressed Natural Gas, Gas-to-Liquid, Biofuels, Methanol, Ethanol, Hydrogen), and also for the reduction of energy consumption (energy efficient navigation and energy efficient ship design), but the long service life of inland vessels, high investment costs, low re-investment capacity of the Danube fleet operators as well as the lack of public actions & incentives impose severe barriers. Although inland waterway transport is considered as an environmental friendly mode of transport, its potential is far from being fully exploited and emissions at local or regional level have a huge reduction potential.
Low emission mobility is one of the major goals of the European transport policy. The most relevant emissions from the transport modes are divided into two types:
- greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) – including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) and
- pollutant emissions – including nitrogen oxides (NOX), particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbons (HC) and carbon monoxide (CO) (Kuciaba, E. 2018).
In absolute terms, the greenhouse gas emissions due to inland navigation are very insignificant in comparison to the total amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by transportation. This is a result of the high energy efficiency of inland navigation and of its generally minor role in the traffic mix. However, its potential is far from being fully exploited and emissions at local or regional level have a huge reduction potential (Central Commission for the Navigation of the Rhine, 2012). Cologne, in Germany for example, estimate that shipping contributes 25% of local NOX and 17% of PM emissions from transport (Seitz, M. 2017 and Kuciaba, E. 2018).
From 2019 all new engines for inland waterway vessels need to comply with the Stage V emission requirements set by the European Union for Non-Road Mobile Machinery (NRMM). The Stage V requirement limits the emission of Carbon Monoxide (CO), Hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen Oxides (NOX), Particulate Matter (PM) and Particle Number (PN) (EIBIP Secretariat 2018).
The “Inland Waterway Transport Masterplan” report from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure in Germany states that there is a lack of availability of inland waterway vessel engines of categories IWA and IWP (engines exclusively used in inland waterway vessels for their propulsion (IWP) or as auxiliary system (IWA)) that fulfil the European requirements of the NRMM Regulation. So engine manufacturers have been asked to offer, as soon as possible, inland waterway vessel engines of categories IWP and IWA that meet or outperform the threshold values of the NRMM Regulation. A first achievement was done in January 2020 when the marinised EURO VI engines were officially certified according to the STAGE-V emission standards. Moreover, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure continues to support the introduction of alternative propulsion systems within the framework of the current Financial Assistance Programme for the Sustainable Modernisation of Inland Waterway Vessels (Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure 2019 and European Inland Waterway Transport Platform 2020).
Moving forward to further improve its environmental, but also economic performance, alternative fuels and electrification will play an important role. Theoretically there are many possibilities for alternative fuels (Liquefied Natural Gas, Compressed Natural Gas, Gas-to-Liquid, Biofuels, Methanol, Ethanol, Hydrogen), and also for the reduction of energy consumption (energy efficient navigation and energy efficient ship design), but the long service life of inland vessels, high investment costs, low re-investment capacity of the Danube fleet operators as well as the lack of public actions & incentives impose severe barriers (Danube Transnational Programme 2018). In various projects and real-life cases the different technologies and fuels are compared, tested and further developed.
In 2012 the Innovative Danube Vessel project was launched to gather the necessary knowledge for the attempt to stimulate the modernization of the Danube fleet. The project considered requirements of the transport market in the Danube region, specific fairway and navigation conditions of the Danube river, the state of the art in inland vessel technology and innovative technical solutions derived from published research projects. Three most promising options leading to energy and cost savings and reduced environmental impact were identified: a classic pusher operated with gasoil (a low pusher draught improves operational performance in shallow waters and therefore increases reliability of transport), a LNG pusher (combines advantages of LNG fuel (low costs, low emissions) with the advantages of convoy transport) as well as an LNG self-propelled vessel with flexible tunnel (propulsive efficiency is improved for upstream voyages). Moreover the project discovered that quick wins can be realised by installing real-time voyage speed optimisation tools on existing Danube vessels and that efficiency of Danube vessels is largely dependent on waterway conditions, especially on the available water depth (DST 2013).
The identification of the best available technologies and concepts to raise energy efficiency and lower emissions in European inland navigation was one goal in the Prominent project (Maierbrugger, G. et al. 2015). The project investigated the technologies and its potentials for wide-spread implementation and costs (Schweighofer, J. 2019). Summarized, LNG (Liquefied Natural Gas) is mainly an opportunity for large vessels that have a lot of fuel consumption per year. So the number of vessels suitable for LNG is relatively limited and a dual fuel engine is more likely to be selected by ship-owners. SCR/DPF is a cost-effective solution to reduce NOx and/or PM emissions for all vessels. However, cost for periodic maintenance (once a year or more) are high, in particular for the DPF. Increasing the acceptance among ship-owners is important, as well as further cost reductions by means of standardizations and development of modular systems. Energy efficient navigation is considered as a promising technology, in particular if the vessel makes a lot of sailing hours such as push boats and large motor vessels, and it is maneuvering on free flowing sections with dynamic waterway conditions (strongly influencing fuel consumption). Hybrid drivetrains and right sizing are more seen as niche solutions rather than large scale applications. Furthermore, they are found to have little effect on air pollutant emissions (Maierbrugger, G. et al 2015).
The Innovative Inland Navigation research (INN-IN), conducted (2017-2018) by the University of Antwerp in assignment of the Central Commission for the Rhine (CCNR), starts with a broad overview of all alternative fuels that were identified through indepth-interviews, stakeholder meetings, CCNR committees and desk research. LNG as fuel was selected as main subject. A business case was developed based on a 110m long tanker with a dual fuel engine that uses 80% LNG and 20% Diesel. The research concluded, that there is a lack of onshore infrastructure (bunkering happens with truck-to-ship delivery and also the locations were this is allowed, are limited), and that there is a remaining uncertainty concerning greenhouse gases, because the potential methane slip invites further research and improved real-time measurements. The developed vessel significantly decreases pollutant emissions, but hardly shows any benefit for climate change (Verberght, E. 2019).
The Green Danube (Integrated transnational policies and practical solutions for an environmentally-friendly Inland Water Transport system in the Danube region) project (running from 1.1.2017 to 30.6.2019) conducted a study on good practices for IWT air emission reduction. 21 practices have been identified and proposed for further discussion. There are for example the first two liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered barges Greenstream (now Ecotanker II) and Green Rhine (now Ecotanker III). With the low emission propulsion these tankers were considered as the future of inland shipping, but still (6 years later) the barges are the only representatives of their kind. Most likely because of the high construction costs. The entire drive technology alone cost about eight times as much as it would have cost to equip it with conventional diesel engines (Pipirigeanu, V. 2018 and Bartel, R. 2020). Further examples are the container vessel Eiger-Nordwand, which is the first inland waterway container vessel worldwide refitted for LNG and the FCS Alsterwasser, which was the first inland passenger ship in the world to set off under fuel cell propulsion and with hydrogen as the source of energy (Pipirigeanu, V. 2018).
Also the Green Inland Shipping Event on 16. October 2019 in Brussels showed alongside the Ecotanker four innovative vessels for inland shipping. Sendoliner is the first commercial freight vessel to sail zero emission on charged battery (up to 3h). The modular platform concept allowing to apply new technologies such as full battery or hydrogen (EIBIP 2020). Wantji is a commercial freight vessel for which Euro VI truck engines were marinized. This solution is relatively cheap and would fit for a large share of the existing fleet to achieve >95% reduction of air pollutant emissions. Emeli was retrofitted with a diesel-electric powertrain. The vessel has now a fuel cell and hydrogen storage system and can produce 30kW of electric power for a duration of 10 hours. The last ship presented was Hydroville, the first certified passenger shuttle that uses hydrogen to power a diesel engine. The shuttle will be mainly used as a platform to test hydrogen technology for commercial seagoing vessels (EFIP 2019).
In the technological factsheets of GRENDEL (Green and Efficient Danube fleet, running from 1.6.2018 to 30.11.2020) one finds even more deployment examples for gas and gas-electric propulsion (Ms Sirocco, Rpg Stuttgart), diesel-electric propulsion (Tms Bilgenentöler 10, Ms Nadorias retrofit), fuel cell propulsion (Ms Innogy, Nemo H2), battery electric propulsion (Sankta Maria II), drop-in fuels like Gas-to-Liquid, Coal-to-Liquid, Biomass-to-Liquid, Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil or Biodiesel (MS Jenny/Ms Wissenschaft, Ms Alhenaar) and EURO VI Truck and NRE engines (Ijmeer). The overall goal of the project is the improvement of the environmental and economic performance of the Danube fleet. The project support vessel operators in modernisation/greening of their fleet based on know-how transfer and results of European and regional innovation projects, real-life demos, fleet investment plans, financing opportunities, integrating inland waterway into logistics systems in cooperation with logistics providers, facilitating state aid and knowledge transfer. Therefore several factsheets providing basic information on innovative technologies in modernising inland vessels are released and updated in the framework of the project (Danube Transnational Programm 2018).
Another option for vessel owners/operators, policy makers or other stakeholders to get state-of-the-art information about the different retrofit greening option technologies currently available for application on existing vessels, is the IWT Greening tool. This interactive web-tool estimate the Return on Investment for different greening options, as well as calculate the potential impact on emissions based on the best available information (Hofbauer, V. and Bäck, A. 2020). But to provide evidence of energy efficiency improvements is often difficult for the inland waterway transport sector. There is a lack of usable real-word data and uniform framework conditions. Consequently, procedures and instruments for measuring emissions while the ship is in operation have to be developed to serve as an objective basis for a balanced environmental policy discussion (Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure 2019).
To get better information about emission the CLINSH project (running from 1.9.2016 to 30.11.2021) was set up. More than 35 ships got various onboard devices to continuously monitor the levels of emissions (NOX and PM) for one year. Moreover monitoring station in ports identify clear peaks in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) as ships pass. Having all this data allows the project teams to make later comparisons when emissions mitigation equipment is installed on the same ships, and it points to the clear benefits that greening measures will have (Janssen, R. 2019).
PortLiner is an initiative by Ton van Meegen. The aim is “zero emission” inland shipping, deploying all-electric vessels equipped with flow batteries. In PortLiner's view hydrogen still needs a good number of years before it becomes technically and financially feasible for inland navigation. That is why they rely on battery-powered solutions, which are available now. PortLiner has identified flow batteries as a perfectly viable alternative for inland shipping, without the downsides of lithium-ion (e.g. overheating, limited economic life and recycling issues, high investment cost) but with the upside of operational efficiency and competitive operational and investment cost. In flow batteries, the electrical energy is stored in a liquid electrolyte (no pressure, ambient temperature) and converted in fuel cells ("stacks") into electricity to feed into electro engines for propulsion. The "spent" electrolyte is subsequently recharged with electricity. The electrolyte can be used for almost indefinite time - there is hardly any degradation. In the course of 2020, PortLiner will launch its first "zero emission" vessel, a 135m container ship (van Meegen, T. 2019).
Another future ship concept is Antonie. The project revolves around the new construction of the inland vessel Antonie as a 100% hydrogen vessel. It is the goal that within three years, this inland vessel get into service and demonstrate its feasibility and at the same time demonstrate a new method for bunkering and storing hydrogen. Moreover a second and a third ship are already under development (Tsoupanarias, M. et al. 2020).
A new company (Zero Emission Services or ZES) will allow inland barges in the Netherlands to sail emission-free thanks to replaceable battery containers that are charged with renewable power. The system includes a network of charging points for exchanging battery containers, technical support and an innovative pay-per-use concept for ship owners, which enables a low entry barrier for the shipowners, a key factor for the transformation to succeed (Vermeulen, R. 2020).
But up to now the average engine used in inland waterway transport has high potential to become more environmentally friendly. Almost the entire fleet uses diesel engines. Therefore, the transformation into a green, clean, safe, secure, digital and automated mode of transport is an increasingly import subject for the sector. The success of these new and green systems in the future will be highly dependent on their reliability, their availability, their durability and their price. Moreover it is very likely, that a combination of different systems existing alongside each other, each fit for a designated purpose. Even the diesel engine might still be around for quite some time, but it is definitely the aim to build and operate economically competitive ships that eliminate harmful emissions to air, water and noise and exceed emission reduction goals (Working Party on Inland Water Transport, 2019 and Waterborne TP 2019).
- There is a lack of availability of inland waterway vessel engines of categories IWA and IWP that fulfil the European requirements of the NRMM Regulation.
- In various projects and real-life cases the different technologies and fuels are compared, tested and further developed, for example: CLINSH, GRENDEL, Green Danube, Innovative Inland Navigation, Prominent, Innovative Danube Vessel,…
- The success of new and green systems in the future will be highly dependent on their reliability, their availability, their durability and their price. Moreover it is very likely, that a combination of different systems existing alongside each other, each fit for a designated purpose.
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