Multiple UK maritime and offshore companies celebrated a wave of project funding this week, courtesy of the fourth round of the government’s Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition (CMDC4).
The CMDC was established by the UK Department of Transport (DoT) and Innovate UK to develop green technologies for ships and ports. This latest funding round has seen £33 million (US$41.9 million) shared across 33 UK maritime/offshore projects, with the aim of unlocking clean maritime technologies such as battery-electric systems, wind power and alt-fuels like ammonia, hydrogen and methanol. This funding comes from the wider £206 million UK Shipping Office for Reducing Emissions (UK SHORE) programme, originally announced in March 2022.
Recipients include the ‘Powering Small Craft with a Novel Ammonia Engine’ project – currently spearheaded by Solent University, engine developer Osprey Research and luxury superyacht tender designer/builder Pascoe International – which received £300,000 of funding. As the name indicates, this initiative aims to create a new “compact, lightweight but powerful” ammonia-fuelled engine for small vessels, using a superyacht tender as a demonstrator.
Andrew Barnes, Osprey Research MD, says: “The internal combustion engine provides a robust and proven solution: the issue is the fuel. However, moving away from carbon-based fuels to zero-carbon fuels, such as ammonia, requires more than just recalibrating an existing engine. The basic operation of the engine itself needs to be re-evaluated.” Solent University will undertake a life cycle analysis of the proposed engine, to determine its overall environmental impact, as well as hydrodynamic testing, to identify the engine’s performance and fuel requirements when installed in the tender.
It will be interesting to see how the project partners pull this off: until quite recently, ammonia has been viewed as the preserve of larger, oceangoing ships, as opposed to small boats. This is mainly due to ammonia’s lower energy density, requiring increased onboard tankage (and, consequently, vessel weight) to achieve a range comparable to that of diesel. Other hurdles to consider include port restrictions, supply chain gaps and safety concerns regarding ammonia’s toxicity and flammability at high temperatures – not to mention potential issues with the alt-fuel’s smell, which has deterred some superyacht operators from investigating it in depth.
Meanwhile, Belfast’s Artemis Technologies received £3 million of CMDC4 backing, which will be used to host the real-world demo of its 24-pax EF-24 CTV concept, initially developed as a result of previous funding from CMDC2. The EF-24 CTV is a 100%-electric, high-speed foiling craft, capable of a predicted top speed of 36knots and an 87nm foiling range. The vessel uses Artemis’ patented eFoiler system to reduce passenger/crew susceptibility to seasickness – thus widening its operational window across various offshore weather states.
Dr Iain Percy OBE, CEO at Artemis, comments: “Offshore wind is a cornerstone of UK decarbonisation plans, with potential to more than triple its capacity by 2035. In turn, CTV numbers are projected to rise significantly.
“If zero-emission vessels are not introduced, we are looking at an estimated 600,000tonnes of CO2 equivalent each year being released into our environment…we want to see zero-emission CTVs deployed in the North Sea by 2025.” The forthcoming EF-24 CTV demos will take place across various UK offshore turbine farms, hosted in conjunction with operator Tidal Transit and Offshore Renewable Energy (ORE) Catapult, and will be accompanied by an EF-24 CTV operator training course. “Onshore charging infrastructure will provide overnight vessel charging, enabling the EF-24 CTV to perform a full commercial operation cycle,” Artemis explains.
Other projects that received CMDC4 funding include the Virtual Bunkering for Electric Vessels (VBEV) demo, supported by shoreside charger developer Aqua superPower, the University of Plymouth and EDF Energy, among others.