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The University of Southampton

Southampton researchers to tackle maritime decarbonisation

Published: 4 October 2021

Researchers at the University of Southampton will work on four winning projects from the Department for Transport’s Clean Maritime Demonstrator Competition announced by Secretary of State for Transport Rt. Hon Grant Shapps.

This competition is investing £20 million in projects across the UK, to address the urgent need to decarbonise the global maritime network.

In partnership with maritime organisations, academics from the University’s Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) bid for funding through the competition and were successful on three projects:

  • A major demonstrator project led by Ocean Infinity Innovations. Southampton researchers will support the development and testing of a zero-emissions Ammonia Marine Propulsion System – a potential solution to a zero carbon coastal freight network.

  • Working with start-up ACUA Ocean Limited, researchers at the SMMI will test the feasibility of ACUA Ocean Limited’s patent-pending long-endurance liquid hydrogen-powered un-crewed surface vessel (H-USV). Autonomous USVs offer a cost-effective means of protecting and managing oceans and waterways.

  • A project between the University, Carnival Plc, Ceres Power Limited, Shell, and Lloyd’s Register will investigate the use of innovative solid oxide fuel cell technology and batteries to replace the use of diesel generators on cruise ships when they are in ports. Currently, cruise ships use diesel to generate electricity for onboard systems such as heating, ventilation and waste processing when they are sitting in ports – but this emits pollutants and noise.

In addition, consultancy services will be provided for clean combustion modelling as part of a study to assess the technical and economic feasibility of using Carnot Marine Vessel’s internal combustion engine based Auxiliary Power Units in the maritime applications to reduce GHG emissions.

Professor Damon Teagle, Director of the SMMI, said: “The SMMI network enabled us to put together on very short notice, strong teams for these projects combining colleagues from Maritime Engineering – Profs Stephen Turnock and Dominic Hudson, and Energy Technologies – Prof Andy Cruden, Dr Dinesh Koralage and Dr Richard Wills, as well as colleagues from the Wolfson Unit.  These multidisciplinary teams supporting their industry partners are essential for tackling the gnarly maritime decarbonisation challenge.

“The whole maritime network carries 90 per cent of global trade, including ships of various sizes and uses, ports and the logistic webs that distribute goods from their origins to the places of consumption. Presently, shipping alone emits approximately three per cent of global CO2 emissions. However, the high energy demands of large machinery and the vast distances of the global supply chains means that decarbonising maritime trade is a technically difficult challenge – and to date there is no clear solution.”

The University’s work on the projects will involve field trials, detailed energy systems modelling, computational fluid dynamics, towing tank testing, and the use of the ISVR’s six-degrees-of-freedom facility to test motion effects on fuel cells.

The Department for Transport announced the Clean Maritime Demonstrator Competition in March 2021 as part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan to position the UK at the forefront of green technologies. The programme is supporting 55 projects across the UK, all working on the research, design and development of zero emission technology and infrastructure solutions to accelerate decarbonisation in the maritime sector.

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