Wind power to provide breath of fresh air for shipping industry
Main page News, Oil

In a bid to cut fuel costs Royal Dutch Shell and shipping giant Maersk will trial a wind-powered oil tanker.

The firms will fit two 30m high "rotor sails" on a 245m-long vessel designed to carry refined oil products.

It is hoped the measure could cut fuel use by up to 10 percent.

The technology has been around for almost 100 years but a modernised version, using more lightweight materials could make the sails practical on large ships.

The sails work by making use of the Magnus effect, which causes balls to swerve when hit with spins.

A motor sets the cylinders in motion when wind blows causing the airflow to speed up on one side of the sail and slows down on the opposite. This creates pressure difference that generates lift and propels the vessel forward.

The sails could cost more than $2 million each to install but most of the bill will be picked up by the British government-funded UK Energy Technologies Institute.

Tuomas Riski, chief executive of Norsepower who will build the sails said new pollution rules that will come into effect in 2020 could make the investment worthwhile.

From 2020 shipping companies will be require to reduce the sulfur content of their fuel, which could come at a significant cost with lower sulfur fuels more expensive than those currently used.

"That's one of the market drivers making this kind of wind-propulsion technology a lot more interesting," he said.

The trial ship will take to the seas in 2018 and be tested until the end of 2019.

If the project is successful it is hoped that the technology could be used on larger vessels.

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