New project to assess flow batteries for zero-emission shipping

New project to assess flow batteries for zero-emission shipping
Victoria of Wight, a 90m battery hybrid ferry designed by Houlder. Image courtesy of Houlder.

A new project, FLO-MAR, has successfully attracted funding from MarRI-UK’s Clean Maritime Call to assess the feasibility of using innovative flow batteries in vessels to enable zero-emission marine propulsion and auxiliary power.

Four UK organisations will be working together on the project to investigate how the design of electric and hybrid ships, from ferries through to tugs and wind farm vessels, can be optimised to accommodate flow batteries and to assess the advantages this technology offers in comparison with existing lithium-ion batteries and hydrogen fuel-cells.

Flow batteries have the potential to offer much faster charging in port, coupled with cost-effective, high-capacity storage, however they have not yet been configured for marine applications. The FLO-MAR project will select the vessel types and operating situations most suitable for flow batteries and will develop an outline vessel design to validate the advantages offered by this battery type.

The Flow-Mar project will be instrumental in assisting the UK to achieve The Clean Maritime Plan’s goal of ‘zero emission vessels operating in UK waters’ by enabling the replacement of fossil fuel combustion with electric propulsion. Preliminary investigations suggest that flow batteries could be particularly well suited to a variety of vessels including domestic passenger vessels as well as offering a possible solution for shore-power systems in ports.

The Flow-Mar project brings together a consortium of 4 organisations with considerable expertise including Houlder, naval architects with broad experience in vessel design; Swanbarton, specialists in energy storage and control technologies for electrical power systems; Lloyd’s Register, a classification society with expertise in risk assessment and certification and Marine South East, a marine cluster with expertise in delivering innovation projects and commercialisation roadmaps.

Jonathan Williams, CEO of Marine South East, lead partner, said: “Decarbonisation of the maritime sector requires commercially-viable solutions for energy storage onboard.  At MSE we are committed to advancing these solutions through collaborative innovation, and are convinced that FLO-MAR will be an important stepping-stone to achieve this.”

David Wing, director ship design & engineering at Houlder commented: “We are pleased to be working collaboratively on this study to expand our track record of helping ship operators reduce their emissions through innovation and new technologies. Flow batteries offer an exciting opportunity to increase the electrification of shipping into a wider range of operations and we look forward to using our practical ship design experience to develop marine flow batteries through feasibility and testing into a commercially viable operational system.”

Anthony Price, MD of Swanbarton said: “With an increased emphasis on the electrification of transport, now is the right time to understand how the technical and commercial advantages of flow batteries can benefit future ship propulsion systems. We see an increasing interest in the role and applications of flow batteries in many sectors and are pleased to be working with MSE, Houlder and Lloyds Register on this important maritime project.”

Peter Huntley-Hawkins, Lloyd’s Register’s team lead of electrical and instrumentation, Marine & Offshore added: “Flow batteries are a promising technology that will help the marine industry address the challenge of decarbonisation and emissions reductions. By using Lloyd’s Register’s established Approval in Principle methodology, we will be able to benchmark the technology for a single vessel design against current regulation requirements and identify any potential hazards in the design and operations of this emerging technology. By developing an understanding of the risks and mitigations applicable to flow batteries, Lloyd’s Register will be well placed to provide safety assurance and support the UK Government with achieving its goal of operating zero-emission vessels in UK waters.”