MOL Drybulk, Drax target reduced biomass shipping emissions with wind power tech

Japanese shipping company MOL Drybulk and the UK-based renewable energy company Drax Group have formed a partnership to reduce emissions and fuel costs associated with shipping biomass by deploying wind power technology on vessels.

Image of the vessel fitted with Wind Challenger technology. Courtesy of Drax

As part of their partnership, the companies plan to facilitate the development of wind-powered vessels to transport bulk cargoes of Drax’s wood pellets to its customers in Japan.

The newly built vessels will be fitted with MOL’s Wind Challenger hard sail technology, with the first ship expected to be on the water as soon as 2025, the companies said.

According to Drax, the initiative is part of its plans to further reduce supply chain emissions and meet the ambition to be a carbon-negative company by 2030, by using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS).

In line with this, Drax and MOL Drybulk have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to study the feasibility of deploying a first and second-generation environmentally-friendly bulk carrier to carry Drax’s biomass.

The first carrier will use MOL’s automated telescopic hard sail technology Wind Challenger and will evaluate the application of other technologies including rotor sails.

The second carrier aims to at least halve emissions with new vessel designs that use multiple Wind Challenger sails, other low-carbon technologies in development and the use of alternative fuels such as ammonia, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and synthetic fuels.

Under the MoU, MOL Drybulk will develop the technologies that will be used and liaising with the shipyard where the vessel will be built and fitted with the hard sail technology.

For its part, Drax will work with ports and terminals in the supply chain on the operational feasibility studies.

Commenting on the partnership, Drax Group’s CEO, Will Gardiner, said: “(…) This partnership to advance this … new technology will support Drax’s commitment to reduce its own supply chain emissions and could also deliver far-reaching benefits across a number of different sectors that rely on ships to carry goods to customers around the world.”

Kazuhiko Kikuchi, president and representative director of MOL Drybulk, added: “MOL has been working with our partners to develop the Wind Challenger technology for over a decade, and it’s great to see this become a reality. We are extremely excited to work together with a … company such as Drax. This partnership will help us have a positive impact on how wood pellets and other cargoes are transported across the world.”

The MoU with MOL Drybulk is said to follow Drax’s previous work with the Smart Green Shipping Alliance to look at the potential of fitting innovative sail technology on ships transporting biomass from the US to the UK.

Meanwhile, MOL Drybulk is also working with sustainable wood bioenergy producer Enviva to deploy an environmentally-friendly bulk carrier to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the woody biomass supply chain.

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