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Japan launches Worlds first all-electric zero-emission tanker

Asahi Tanker, Japanese shipping company, unveils the world-first all-electricity powered tanker during the launching ceremony. Picture: The Yomiuri Shimbun /Reuters

Asahi Tanker, Japanese shipping company, unveils the world-first all-electricity powered tanker during the launching ceremony. Picture: The Yomiuri Shimbun /Reuters

Published Jan 11, 2022

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The Japanese shipping company, Asahi Tanker, recently launched the first of two next-generation all-electric oil tankers. The launch ceremony took place at Koa Sangyo shipyard in Marugame City, Kagawa, Japan, on December 22, 2021.

The oil tanker, named Asahi, is scheduled to enter service in Tokyo Bay as a bunker vessel in March 2022. A bunker vessel is a small tanker fitted with fuel pumps and a crane for hose handling, used for loading and unloading fuel oils into or out of larger bulk ship tanks.

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According to energy and shipping news website Offshore Energy, the Asahi is powered by a single massive lithium-ion battery, very much like the batteries in your remote control, just a lot bigger.

The battery was developed by e5 Lab a consortium set up by Japanese partners to build up infrastructure services in the marine shipping industry that focus on electrically powered vessels.

The tanker emits no carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, Sulphur dioxide or particulates, reducing environmental impacts such as climate and water pollution.

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In addition to the ship's zero emissions, reduced noise and vibration will create a more comfortable work environment for the crew members and limit noise pollution in the bay and its surroundings which would reduce the impact on sea life which use sound waves to communicate and find food.

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The vessel will make its battery power available to Tokyo Bay emergency services when needed.

The Nippon Kaiji Kyokai classified ship is 62 metres long, 10.3 metres wide and is built to carry a gross tonnage of 499 tons of heavy oil. It has a battery capacity of 3 480 kilowatt-hours.

Tokyo-based Asahi Tanker will own and operate the e5 vessel which, ironically, will carry marine diesel fuels to refill the tanks of other cargo ships in the Bay.

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The 3.5-megawatt-hour (MWh) energy storage system is about the size of 40 Tesla Model S battery packs. That’s enough capacity to propel the ship for “many hours” before needing to plug into a shoreside charging station, said Sean Puchalski of Corvus Energy, the company supplying the batteries.

Cargo ships account for nearly 3 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions, according to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations body that regulates the shipping

industry. In 2018, the IMO agreed to reduce shipping emissions by 50 percent from 2008 levels by 2050, a target that is spurring investment in not only batteries but also cleaner-burning fuels like hydrogen and ammonia.

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