Fuelling the Future
Over the next few decades, defining an optimal response to the challenges of climate change and rising sea levels will be at the forefront of the dredging industry’s agenda.
Royal IHC’s Manager R&D, Erik van der Blom, is at the heart of a new philosophy regarding sustainability, which encompasses technology, innovation and a change of mindset.
The dredging industry faces a number of challenges linked to climate change over the coming years. While new opportunities are expected owing to rising sea levels, stricter emission regulations for exhaust gases will also play their part. The latter will have a significant impact on the design of dredging vessels and equipment and the type of fuels to be used.
There is a continuous search for more sustainable methods of dredging and ways to power vessels. In addition, the number of emission-controlled areas (ECAs) around the world is increasing and emission regulations regarding shipping are becoming tougher. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is also rolling out stricter regulations for sulphur and nitrogen emissions.
In the next few years, the maritime industry will face an increase in legislation regarding the reduction of CO2, particulate matter and black carbon. The effects of which are already being felt, because the majority of the world’s largest vessels use heavy fuel oil (HFO) for power.
“Emission regulations will impact on the design and operation of dredging equipment, and if you’re a vessel designer or owner, you need to start thinking ahead,” says van der Blom.
“That means considering where the vessel will be operating, what type of projects it will be involved with, and what emission regulations will be in place in the future. At the keel-laying stage, a vessel must already comply with new legislation. If companies only consider this aspect when the regulations are in place, it will be too late.”
The fuel of choice
As a designer and builder of dredging vessels, IHC is working to overcome these challenges.
For van der Blom, one of the first aspects to consider when designing a new dredger relates to the choice of fuel: “Emission regulations are closely tied to fuel, and fuel choice has an effect on the engine type and the layout of the vessel. However, it isn’t possible to merely switch engines. In fact, designing a vessel such as a trailing suction hopper dredger (TSHD) is a complex process with numerous variations. The choice that a dredging company makes regarding the engine has an effect on the arrangement of the vessel, the propulsion system and the control system.”
Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is quickly becoming one of the fuels of choice on board new vessels. LNG-fuelled ships eliminate sulphur oxide and particulate matter emissions, and significantly reduce the release of nitrogen emissions.
Dual-fuel engines, which operate through both diesel and LNG, are increasing in popularity because they provide greater flexibility. They enable dredging companies to operate the vessel in areas where LNG is not yet available and in a sustainable way in areas where LNG is accessible.
However, integrating LNG in a hopper dredger is a challenge. Storage of LNG requires three times the volume compared to diesel, which has a significant effect on a vessel’s design. Safety zones and additional safety measures around the LNG fuel system also increase complexity in the design process.