Drax takes action to cut shipping supply chain emissions

By Drax Group | November 29, 2018

Drax, operator of the U.K.’s largest power station, is partnering with the Smart Green Shipping Alliance, leading dry bulk cargo transporter Ultrabulk, and Humphreys Yacht Design, naval architects of Dame Ellen McArthur’s ‘Kingfisher’ yacht, to tackle the mounting issue of CO2 emissions from the shipping industry.

A £100,000 12-month feasibility study funded by InnovateUK, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) and private investors has begun, which will examine the potential of fitting an innovative sail technology called Fastrig onto Ultrabulk ships importing biomass into the U.K., for cutting both carbon emissions and costs.

The shipping industry emits roughly 3 percent of global CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions (CO2-equivalent), or approximately 1 billion metric tons of CO2 and other GHGs per year.  That’s over twice as much as the U.K.’s total emissions, from all sources.

Drax Power Station in North Yorkshire has transformed its business having converted two thirds of the power station to use biomass instead of coal—It is now Europe’s biggest decarbonization project. Last year, it imported 6.8 million metric tons of the compressed wood pellets in 221 deliveries to the ports of Immingham, Hull, Tyne and Liverpool, to enable it to generate 14 percent of the U.K.’s renewable electricity.

Using biomass at Drax has delivered carbon savings of more than 80 percent compared to coal—this includes supply chain emissions, but shipping remains one of the most carbon intensive parts of the biomass supply chain. Drax’s desire to drive down emissions even further enabled Smart Green Shipping to partner with an ‘end user’ looking for the lowest carbon cargo provider.

Diane Gilpin, CEO and Founder of Smart Green Shipping Alliance, said, “This is a project that could really make a difference to the way the industry operates. Drax’s determination to cut carbon emissions creates real demand. Reducing emissions is good business, it saves costs and improves long-term operational certainty. This study aims to find the ‘sweet spot’ between reducing emissions and saving fuel costs.

“We’re engaging across shipping, working with port owners, shipbuilders, cargo owners’, and financiers to design pragmatic and effective new systems solutions. The prototypes we’re looking to develop are really exciting. A 21st century sailing-hybrid ship will look as much like the Cutty Sark as a Tesla does a Model T Ford.”

Gilpin is an expert on the U.K. government’s Clean Maritime Council, which will devise a strategy to reduce emissions from the shipping sector.

U.K. Shipping Minister Nusrat Ghani said at the Council’s inaugural meeting, “The Clean Maritime Plan will bring new opportunities for Britain’s businesses to design, develop and sell green solutions to this global challenge.”

Drax Group CEO Will Gardiner said, “Smart Green Shipping Alliance’s pioneering efforts to deliver cleaner, greener transportation could help achieve the clean growth required for the U.K. to meet its climate targets. If we’re serious about meeting those targets, decarbonizing transportation is the next big challenge.

“The combination of green shipping with renewables makes an even greater contribution to decarbonization globally. This is a key development in achieving Drax’s aim—to deliver a zero carbon, low cost future for all.”

The innovation leads on the project, Rob and Tom Humphreys of Humphreys Yacht Design, explained how their team’s background in ocean racing has helped them to make technical advances in an industry that has used the same technology for the past century.