NYK to Develop Wood Pellet-Powered Vessel

NYK to Develop Wood Pellet-Powered Vessel

Amongst the myriad fuels currently vying to become the de facto alternative maritime fuel of the future, a new (and unlikely) challenger has entered; wood pellets. NYK Line, NYK Bulk & Project Carriers, Tsuneishi Shipbuilding and Drax Group have entered into a partnership to develop a new vessel powered by this perhaps most unlikely of fuel sources…

Introducing bioships?

We’re all used to the idea of maritime vessels running on refined carbon-based fuels. Heavy fuel oil has been the mainstay of the industry for decades, after all. 

But, wood pellets? It’s certainly a novel concept, but it’s one that NYK appears to be committed to pursuing. 

What is already being dubbed a ‘bioship’ will be developed by a collaborative team - led by NYK as part of a MoU - and will target the handysize vessel segment. Rather suitably, it’s exactly this vessel segment that is currently used to transport biomass pellets from their source to end users. 

NYK has explained that its choice of handysize for the vessel isn’t merely a fortunate coincidence. Instead, NYK is choosing to develop a ‘bioship’ for this vessel segment as small bulkers such as handysize vessels have so far proven difficult to decarbonise due to their small fuel tanks. 

With the bulker segment overall lagging behind on green investments and decarbonisation, efforts such as NYK’s will clearly be welcomed by policymakers and the industry alike. 

Researching the future

Given the novel nature of bioships, it’s understandable that NYK and its project partners intend to thoroughly research the practical implications of an onboard biomass fuel plant. 

It is expected that the fuel plant will use a gasifier to combust wood pellets at high temperatures and use the gases generated to propel and power the ship. 

NYK and partners will be closely studying the carbon-emissions savings associated with the power plant. An initial estimation suggests that well-to-wake carbon emissions could be reduced by as much as 22% compared to fossil fuels. 

Commenting on the proposed new vessel, Shinichi Yanagisawa, executive officer of NYK Line, said: 

“The NYK Group is committed to providing its expertise in low-carbon and decarbonised maritime transportation as per this MOU and will utilise the knowledge gained in this research and development to promote initiatives related to various energy-saving technologies”.

Paul Sheffield, COO of Drax Group - a project partner and a large biomass-based power generation business - commented: 

“Drax aims to be carbon negative by 2030 and decarbonising our supply chain is critical to reaching this goal. This MoU is an important step in the development of the technology required to power and launch the world’s first bioship, which will support Drax’s decarbonisation goals but could also drive the innovation needed to transform shipping and cut carbon emissions and fuel costs in global supply chains”.

Want to explore novel vessel design? 

Then speak to Brookes Bell’s naval architects today. Our team has extensive experience in; ship design, class and regulatory compliance, shipbuilding and in-service support, structural analysis and design, advising on new build compliance and more.

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Andrew Yarwood
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