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  • 2021 May 21

    Energy of the future: Saint-Petersburg scientists’ vision of the shipping industry

    Introduction of nuclear and hydrogen engines into shipping as well as using electric propulsion are among the key trends of the modern water transport development. They are in the focus of Krylov State Research Center which tells about their developments and vision of the ship propulsion future.

    Promotion of the alternative energy sources is probably the key trend in the development of today’s water transport. Conventional fuels are gradually giving way amid permanently toughening environment requirements in the shipping industry on both national and international level. Besides, the second way of marine fuel ‘greening’ is coming to fight a so called ‘carbon footprint’ over the entire life cycle of a ship. In this respect, underway is a global search for solutions ensuring relatively cheap and highly sustainable replacement of conventional fuels. It is Krylov State Research Center (Saint-Petersburg) that is working on such issues in Russia.

    As Valery Polovinkin, Science Principal of Krylov State Research Center, energy engineering based on oxidation principles is getting outdated as it does not meet new environmental standards. According to the expert, technologies based on nuclear and hydrogen energy will develop at a rapid rate in the nearest years with Krylov State Research Center taking an active part in it. The scientist also emphasized that alternative energy sources have some disadvantages related to the cost and safety of their application. Nevertheless, Valery Polovinkin believes that further development of the related technologies will contribute to cost improvement and security enhancement of alternative energy systems I the nearest future.

    When commenting on the forecast of DNV concerning the use of marine fuel by 2040 and predicting the overall shift to ammonia, the scientist mentioned other sources of energy that are likely to develop as well including nuclear energy with its long history of development in Russia and hydrogen energy.

    “Science doesn't stay stagnant, it develops. Obviously, it will not be the nuclear power industry we have today. It can be thorium-uranium fuel cycles, liquid salt reactors, thermal synthesis... nuclear power industry will continue development to 2040s and it will be viable ... Hydrogen also has its prospects... It should be emphasized that the entire energy engineering based on oxidation principles is the thing of the past as it causes environmental problems”, said the Science Principal of Krylov State Research Center.

    He also referred to electric propulsion as a segment going through revolutionary changes. Meanwhile, he was skeptical about the prospects of en masse transition to ships driven by renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar energy.

    As Aleksey Rakhmanov, General Director of United Shipbuilding Corporation, earlier told IAA PortNews, “electric propulsion is actually the future of global shipbuilding. It lets make less sophisticated designs of ships and gives other advantages”.

    Using hydrogen energy in the shipping industry is getting a worldwide trend which should be followed.  In Japan, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Ltd., Yanmar Power Technology Co., Ltd., and Japan Engine Corporation formed a consortium of Japanese engine manufacturers to pursue joint development of hydrogen fueled marine engines for ocean-going and coastal vessels towards establishing a world-leading position in hydrogen engine technologies.

    On the 19th of May, the European Parliament approved the report of the Industry (ITRE) Committee on the European hydrogen strategy. The Industry committee underlines that multimodal sea and inland ports play a role as innovation hubs for the import, production, storage, supply and use of hydrogen. This requires space and investment in port infrastructure to make optimal use of sustainable technologies. According to the Parliament, the building of an industrial hydrogen value chain should take place along multimodal transport corridors.

    In its turn, Krylov State Research Center is set to develop Russia’s first ship powered by hydrogen by 2024. According to Igor Landgraf, Deputy Director of TSNII SET hydrogen energy department (affiliated branch of KSRC), it will be a small leisure and sightseeing ship. The work will be held under the umbrella of the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

    Besides, KSRC has developed a concept design of a tugboat using fuel cell solutions with reserve power supply from an accumulator battery.

    As for nuclear power technologies, Russia has been traditionally holding leadership in this segment. It is building a series of the world’s most powerful nuclear-powered icebreakers and Rosatom is looking into building nuclear-powered cargo ships for the Arctic.

    By Vitaly Chernov


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