Lost – Sometimes Gained – In Transmission

November 28, 2023

By Alice Brais

The same person who wants to send humanity to Mars also has us hurtling headlong into the age of electrified transportation. Even the maritime sector, notoriously lethargic in adopting new technologies, is eager to embrace electrification as the industry ramps up its efforts to cut emissions.

But hold on tight – the battery revolution may unknowingly lead us down the wrong path.

In a move to meet future IMO regulations and combat climate change, many ship owners and operators are betting big on batteries to reduce their fleet’s air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, but discerning the real-world impacts of battery-electric propulsion is tricky.

Enter RAptures, Robert Allan Ltd.’s in-house modelling tool with newly upgraded functionalities to better predict the emissions-reduction potential of electric and alternatively fueled operations. To gain a broader perspective of a vessel’s environmental impact, RAptures is set up to evaluate the onboard and now also the upstream emissions of the fuels and electrical shore power consumed onboard.

For fossil-based fuels, upstream emissions are associated with feedstock extraction, transportation, and refinement. The industrial emissions of electrical power generation are less obvious. Electricity is fundamentally the same whether it is generated by solar panels or a gas-fired power plant. A little sleuthing is usually required to identify the various sources of electricity, all of which contribute to the grid’s carbon emission intensity in varying degrees.

Drawing on renewable electricity, the battery-powered ElectRA 2300-SX, for example, can reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions by 99% and virtually eliminate onboard air pollutant emissions compared to a conventional harbour tug.

Conversely, a poorly positioned electric tug may be unintentionally burdened with a larger carbon footprint than its diesel-fueled counterpart. Such can be the case for ships hooked up to an electrical grid with a fossil fuel-fired power station on the other end.

The updated RAptures tool lets us investigate local variables, such as a grid’s carbon intensity, and assist clients in maximizing the positive impacts of their investments by providing a comprehensive evaluation of the various alternative fuels and powering options.

Batteries and other green technologies are not cheap – we can help make every penny count.