A coalition of marine companies, led by Bibby Marine and supported by the UK Government, aims to develop the first zero-emission electric Service Operation Vessel (eSOV) for the offshore wind industry. With the UK aiming to add 40GW of additional offshore wind capacity by 2030, the group estimates the need for 62 to 149 vessels to support offshore wind operations. To meet this demand, they proposed a 295-foot-long vessel, primarily powered by electricity and batteries, with dual-fuel methanol engines as backup.
The eSOV can charge its batteries at wind farms and operate emission-free on site for two weeks. For nearshore operations, the vessel will operate solely on battery power. During long transfers between home ports and wind farms, the engines will use methanol fuel, allowing a 90% reduction in emissions compared to fossil fuel operations. If charging at sea is not possible, the ship can use methanol engines to recharge the batteries, still achieving a 50% reduction in emissions.
The project, which cost $37.5 million, received $25 million in funding from the UK government. Partners include Bibby Marine, the Port of Aberdeen, Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, Kongsberg, DNV, Shell and Liverpool John Moores University. eSOV is expected to be operational by 2025, in line with UK government competition rules.
The development of zero-emission ships is essential to the transition of the maritime industry to a zero-carbon future, according to DNV, one of the members of the coalition. Bibby Marine sees this vessel as a natural progression in its decarbonisation efforts and the first new vessel in five years.
The UK government has previously funded projects focusing on offshore charging capabilities, as the distance from the coast for wind farms increases. Many projects around the world are exploring the use of offshore charging and the development of all-electric ships or other zero-emission vessels.