ABB, a Swiss-based company focused on power and automation, believes that the future of shipping is in hybrid ships. Børre Gundersen, R&D manager for the company’s marine division in Norway, has stated that systems ABB is developing significantly reduce fuel use and emissions. They are developing a direct current battery system to offset traditional alternating current systems, which will reduce fuel use and the consequent emissions by 10 to 15%.
The battery system helps to optimize combustion engines, meaning that they use less fuel to do more work and that they are more reliable, all of which is a boon for shipping. Battery technology is expected to double in efficiency by 2020 without any significant increase in cost, which will allow for greater use of battery systems and battery backups at sea. Gundersen expects that the future will be smaller, more efficient engines that are either electric or hybrid. They would be especially useful for offshore use, where ships have to perform a variety of tasks with different power needs.
The environmental impact of such devices would be huge. According to ABB, hybridizing 230 offshore supply vessels in Norwegian waters would reduce emissions by as much as 400,000 metric tons each year. That’s the equivalent of 163 cars in Norway.
Reducing carbon emissions is one of the most important steps in fighting global climate change. Less emissions means less CO2 in the air, and it increases the chance that plants can process that CO2 before it can harm the climate. CO2 that remains in the atmosphere can lead to global warming but can also sink into the ocean where, if it cannot be broken down through natural processes, it can lead to an increase in ocean acidity. Increasing acidity can have wide-ranging effects on aquatic ecosystems and is already underway.