Sometimes a revolution starts from simple beginnings – in this case, by bringing together a group of experts in shipping, energy and propulsion and giving them a blank piece of paper to create something new. This is how a practical concept for making clean shipping a reality, known as ZEEDS (Zero Emission Energy Distribution at Sea), was born.
The need for a concept like ZEEDS is clear. Shipping, carrying over 90 percent of global trade, is vital to the smooth functioning of our daily lives. But most ships still burn heavy fuel oil, which contains contaminants like sulphur and nitrogen, meaning they create a fair amount of pollution. In fact, shipping accounts for some two to three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions.
The solution is to switch to clean-burning zero-emission fuels like ammonia or hydrogen. While alternative fuels like these have their pros and cons, the real issue is simple enough: green solutions need green fuels. But to enable the global adoption of green fuels the refuelling infrastructure needs to be there. So which comes first?
“There can’t be a chicken or egg approach here – we need both the infrastructure for fuel distribution and the vessels with engines able to use green fuel at the same time.
- Jane Jünger, Communication & Marketing Manager, Wärtsilä Norway
That’s where the Wärtsilä-initiated ZEEDS initiative comes in.
The idea is to create an entire ecosystem of offshore clean fuel production and distribution hubs and deploy them in strategic locations across the globe. The ecosystem would be based on existing technology, meaning it is practical and can already be rolled out in pilot projects.
In addition to Wärtsilä, the initiative includes Aker Solutions, an offshore engineering and technology company; DFDS, an international shipping and logistics company; Equinor, a multinational energy company; and Grieg Star, an international shipowner.
These five companies form the core of the group for one simple reason: they all contribute different knowledge and competencies. “The important thing to remember is that with the game changing due to emissions targets, new business models are needed, and the only way to create them is through this kind of collaboration. The members’ complementary expertise is invaluable and helps to opens new doors,” says Cato Esperø, Sales Director, Wärtsilä Norway.
The initial infrastructure of the future as imagined by the companies involved in ZEEDS is composed of fuel hubs set up next to offshore wind turbines, built as two-level platforms. The energy produced by the turbines will be used to produce hydrogen
from water on the first level of the platform while on the second level, ammonia will be made from hydrogen and nitrogen extracted from the air. Other clean fuels could be produced and stored as well.
But how can such a diverse group of companies create the necessary ecosystem? The key is to spend the time needed to communicate and build trust – combined with a strong belief in the goals of the project. “The beauty of this is approach is that it works because all the companies are different. Every partner is a vital link in the value chain, and building trust is the key to success,” says Jünger.
In January 2020 the partners discussed the next phase of ZEEDS and how to make the initiative commercially viable for all partners. The team has identified four workstreams, which are now moving into the pilot project phase:
The ZEEDS initiative is also collaborating with other stakeholders, including NGOs, politicians at all levels, and local communities who stand to benefit from the initiative’s circular approach – for example by reusing waste heat and oxygen
from production processes in other commercial activities. “This project has already had practical results – during this process five new companies have been spun off to work on the solutions needed to make this a reality. We’ve seen
hard evidence in this project that a good purpose will generate great future business while also helping to build a more sustainable society,” says Esperø.
Radical transformation on a massive scale is needed to decarbonise shipping, and Wärtsilä and the other ZEEDS partners believe the initiative can be a significant contributor to this objective. In upcoming articles we will dive deeper into the
four workstreams to discuss the plans and what has been achieved so far. Stay tuned.
Learn more about ZEEDS below: