Ben Rogerson Yacht Design, and partners Airborne, Expert, and the University of Chester Smart Composite Group have been awarded grant funding by the Department of Transport to explore the potential for adoption of advancing thermoplastic composites and automation technologies. This is in a bid to enable the development of a wave of new, significantly reduced environmental impact vessels in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and material wastage, from design and initial production, throughout the vessel’s service life, through to eventual decommissioning.
The marine transport industry reportedly contributes 940 million tonnes of CO2 annually, which is responsible for an estimated 2.5% of global greenhouse emissions, according to a study undertaken by the International Maritime Organisation. This study also predicted that the emissions are projected to increase significantly if mitigation measures are not put in place swiftly and that shipping emissions could under a business-as-usual scenario increase between 50% and 250% by 2050.
The focus of this study, awarded the grant funding, lies in the adoption of reduced to zero emissions’ propulsion technologies. Currently, there are several barriers to this, with the biggest hurdle being the significantly reduced power density, in comparison to traditional Internal combustion engine propulsion.
The marine industry contributes
In order to overcome these barriers, dramatic improvements are required in vessel efficiency in terms of hydrodynamic optimisation and reduced structural weights, that are likely to bring the greatest return. With typical large yacht structures being produced in steel or aluminium, it is clear significant gains can be achieved with a shift to high-performing composite structures.
The marine industry has long pioneered development of advancing composites with a flow of knowhows and processes seen in many other industries such as wind, aerospace and automotive. Infrastructure, material, and labour costs have typically been prohibitive for high-performance composite structures to be adopted within large yacht construction. However, a much larger scale issue is evident with the lack of ecologically sound processing of end-of-life composite structures.
It is very clear that a shift to more sustainable composite processes is vital. A report by Composite UK estimated that 75,000 tonnes of end-of-life glass fibre reinforced plastic waste is generated in the UK each year with no clean method currently available to recycle the products for reuse.
A potential solution to this problem, that is gaining significant traction within aerospace and automotive industries, is the adoption of thermoplastic composites. When handling these materials at end-of-life, the processes involved in material reclamation may be significantly cleaner, leading to a sizable reduction in emissions and yielding a higher quality recycled product output.
More efficient automated processes would also enable low waste in the production phase of the lifecycle, which when factored in with the higher recyclability of the materials enables considerable progress towards realising the circular economy in the marine industry.
Therefore, a consortium of partners including composite and automation industry leaders and research institutions has been formed to investigate the feasibility. This will lay the foundations for development in this exciting and fast-moving area of marine composite industry advancement. The team believes that significant advances could be seen within the marine industry by resolving these issues through adoption of thermoplastic composites with automated processes.
Further news to follow in the coming months.
Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition
The REMASTER Project is part of the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition, funded by the Department for Transport and delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.
Announced in March 2020, and part of the Prime Minister’s Ten Point Plan to position the UK at the forefront of green shipbuilding and maritime technology, the Clean Maritime Demonstration Competition is a £20m investment from government alongside a further c.£10m from industry to reduce emissions from the maritime sector. The programme is supporting 55 projects across the UK, including projects in Scotland, Northern Ireland and from the south west to the north east of England. As set out in the Clean Maritime Plan (2019), Government funding has been used to support early-stage research relating to clean maritime. The programme will be used to support the research, design and development of zero emission technology and infrastructure solutions for maritime and to accelerate decarbonisation in the sector.
Read more about the competition here…