Accelerating the energy transition

Sven Kramer. Credit: Van Oord

Van Oord’s sustainability director, Sven Kramer, gives a marine contractor’s perspective about leading the energy transition and considers what the company has done in-house to reduce its emissions

System integration, energy storage, stakeholder engagement, and partnerships play a crucial role in enhancing the transition towards a decarbonised energy system. Van Oord is working on two transitions to support the energy shift: one at company level and another at global level. It is our ambition to act as an initiator for accelerating the energy transition while also creating societal value. One way we aim to do this is through large-scale roll-out of offshore wind, and we acknowledge that sector-wide collaboration and innovations are key in making this transition a success.

There are many options for making the transition as cost-effective and as fast as possible. In a white paper released in November 2019, we identified eight key elements that should be accounted for as industry and beyond move towards decarbonisation: system integration; continuous roll-out of projects; implementing energy storage; using carbon capture and storage; empowering nature; accelerating digitisation; providing experimentation space; and stimulating demand for electrification.

We have also looked to our own operations. About 95% of our carbon footprint is linked to our fleet, which consists of numerous specialised working vessels, including hopper dredgers and offshore installation vessels. Many of the available technologies developed to reduce emissions are specific to long-distance shipping and are not applicable to our fleet operating in a niche near-shore market. Therefore, we have had to develop our own solutions and distinguish four options for dealing with energy efficiency.

Carbon cutting

The first is sailing at an economic speed to reduce overall fuel consumption. This principle is used when sailing from project to project, but it can also be used within a dredging project or during the construction of an offshore wind farm.

Van Oord has devoted a lot of effort over the past decades to developing in-house technologies on process control, and we continuously use field data and experience to improve our knowledge and control principles.

The second area is ship design. Operating vessels near shore and in shallow water will require special focus on phenomena such as squat and manoeuvrability, in addition to the conflict of minimising resistance and maximising load capacity. Therefore, a great deal of effort is put into computational fluid dynamics (CFD) calculations and towing tests during the design phase.

Alternative fuels are the third factor, and at Van Oord we see the fuel switch towards hydrogen-based (synthetic) fuels as inevitable. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) will be used as a transition fuel in the meantime, and second-generation biofuels are a short-term option for existing vessels. Van Oord is also actively participating in the Green Maritime Methanol initiative and investigating the possibility of bio-LNG refined from seaweed, a ‘third-generation biofuel’. Our new, more sustainable vessels will have the ability to handle the best available alternatives to existing hydrocarbon-based fuels.

Engine options

Finally, we have identified engine technology, which will drive us to decarbonised operations. Efficiency boosters such as waste heat recovery systems and battery packs are implemented in current newbuildings. Meanwhile, retrofit initiatives for the existing fleet are in progress. Special attention is given to the base load of vessels, and the use of frequency-driven cooling water pumps is an effective way to reduce power demand. The new LNG-driven vessels will use the latent heat of LNG for the ship’s air-conditioning systems, thus reducing the electrical load of cooling compressors.

An unconventional approach to reduce the carbon footprint is the marinisation of carbon capture and storage technology. This land-based technology could, in some cases, be a viable road towards achieving ambitious short-term carbon reduction targets. A significant increase in energy efficiency and simultaneous reduction in emissions can be achieved by combining these four options.