Energy Observer maintenance to optimise performance by 15 per cent

Energy Observer maintenance to optimise performance by 15 per cent
Energy Observer being taken out of the water for maintenance and optimisations. Image courtesy of Energy Observer

The hydrogen-powered vessel Energy Observer is taking a break from work for a three-month technical pause in which it will undergo maintenance to optimise its performance up to 15 per cent, before resuming operations next spring.

The 30 metre catamaran, which weights 30 tonnes was transported to its maintenance area Wednesday December 12. Following 10 months and over 10,000 miles of sailing, the experimental catamaran will undergo some modifications to optimise its performance.

The vessel will be installed with Oceanwings wingsail technology. Modifications will also be made to recuperate all heat produced by the cell to heat the vessel. This will result in a complete change of components and pumps to validate the industrial materials that could then be used on other systems. The system will be made more reliable and more simple. The air intake systems for the fuel cell and the hydrogen system vents will be replaced for better performance.

Julien Bonnard, on-board technician explained: “I will take care of all the flows from the different systems. We’re going to install an innovative circuit to pool the heat sources; so we’ll begin with a phase of dismantling the existing system to start up with a new one.”

The solar and hydrogen power systems will also be upgraded. Over 100 panels will be replaced with custom panels to optimise the available surfaces, confirmed Hugo Devedeux who is taking charge of the solar aspect.

Roland Raynaud will focus on the hydrogen aspect. He explained: “A fuel cell provides energy in two forms. 50 per cent in electricity, the other half is thermal energy, which, for the system on-board Energy Observer, represents up to 20 kW. We’re going to work on the thermal aspect. We’re going to implement a storage system that will let us warm the nacelle even when the fuel cell is stopped.

The changes being made to the vessel will influence its overall operation. Marin Jerry, chief mate, stated: “A huge number of points are checked to ensure that the vessel can sail in complete safety. The arrival of the Oceanwings wings will change the vessel’s weight and centre of gravity. We must anticipate its behaviour at sea, and make sure that these modifications will create a safer and better-performing vessel, able to face all types of weather.”

Energy Observer is expected to resume operations in Northern Europe seas by mid-March 2019.