Fitting giant sails to cargo ships could reduce their GHG emissions by at least 30 %

Graeme Paton writes on The Times website about the GHG emissions that could be reduced by retrofitting sails on ships. The UK government announced this week that emissions from international shipping would be included in the UK’s climate change targets so obviously people are looking at creative ways to mitigate emissions.

 

Attaching giant sails to cargo ships could slash their greenhouse gas emissions

Fitting giant sails to cargo ships could reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by at least 30 per cent, research shows.

Reducing speeds to use less fuel when the engines are running would cut emissions by a further 10 per cent, according to the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The government should part-fund a demonstration ship using retrofitted sails as part of the UN Cop26 climate change conference in Glasgow in November to improve understanding of the potential of wind power, the institution said.

The government announced this week that emissions from international shipping would be included in the UK’s climate change targets. However, the institution’s report said rapid action was needed to clean up shipping because of slow progress on the issue.

Shipping accounts for 3 per cent of global emissions. This could rise to 20 per cent by 2050 as other sectors decarbonise faster.

The shipping industry is developing greener propulsion systems such as using hydrogen as an alternative to fossil fuel.

However, the report said that this would be at least three times more expensive than fossil fuel and may not be ready for over a decade.

It said that wind was a far quicker solution with the possibility of retrofitting existing ships in the coming years. A number of projects are already under way to develop wind-powered cargo vessels. Last year, designs were released for Oceanbird, a transporter ship to carry 7,000 cars across the North Atlantic using 260ft-high sails.

Cargill, the US agricultural company, also unveiled plans to fix sails to its fleet of bulk ships. However, to date no existing ships have been retrofitted with sails.

The report said: “Twenty-first century wingsails retrofitted on to cargo ships that do not carry goods on the deck will allow for a significant decrease in emissions.

“This reduction is made by allowing the fixed sails to be used at sea and subsequently use less fossil fuel. A careful analysis of ship types working on suitable routes could allow for even greater reductions in emissions by optimising automated wingsails to harness maximum amount of wind.”

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