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A small step for a company, a big step for mankind

Wed 13 Jun 2018 by Marcel Roelofs, owner, Chevalier Floatels

A small step for a company, a big step for mankind

Chevalier Floatels owner Marcel Roelofs makes the case for the offshore sector to reduce emissions by adding the carbon footprint to the checklist when selecting a vessel

While walking the talk may not always be easy when it comes to the environment, if realistic solutions are presented, the cleaner solution makes sense.

In the offshore sector, big steps are being made in that direction and decreasing the industry’s carbon footprint is increasingly on the agenda these days. Oil and gas companies are using solar panels and small turbines on platforms to make extraction cleaner and large offshore windfarms capable of powering towns, cities and sometimes even entire countries are being built. When such big strides are taken to give the planet a cleaner future and reduce our carbon footprint, smaller things can easily be forgotten. But these can make a big difference as well.

Vessels burn fuel in large quantities in our industry. As I am no expert in helicopters I will not discuss these, but you will appreciate there is a relationship here too. As a starting point for comparison, let us consider that an average truck uses around 24 litres of diesel per hour for 12 hours per day, roughly equalling 0.25 tonnes of diesel. While this is not an ‘apples-to-apples’ comparison, this gives a rough basis to make the effects of fuel consumption less abstract and more visible.

Vessels come in all shapes and there are all kind of factors such as size, age and engine type that influence fuel consumption and in consequence, carbon footprint. For comparison’s sake and because I have firsthand experience, I will use the example of our vessels DP Gezina and DP Galyna.

These are compact walk-to-work vessels and were the first offshore support vessels to have integrated Ampelmann heave-compensated gangways. Experience over more than 30 projects tells us they usually take 3 tonnes of marine gasoil per day. There are similar vessels in the market that consume 5 to 10 tonnes per day but our vessels are diesel-electric driven with azimuth propulsion and were designed with an emphasis on low fuel consumption and emissions.

If you compare the fuel consumption of one of our vessels with a vessel that takes 5 tonnes per day, you save the CO2 and NOx equivalent of 2 tonnes per day. Based on the earlier comparison this is roughly equal to leaving eight trucks in the garage per day, which is already a remarkable saving. If you make the same comparison for larger ships, you would see an even more material difference. There are larger vessels designed for the same kind of job that take 10 tonnes and 25 tonnes of fuel per day.

By choosing the right vessel, charterers can help the environment significantly while saving on the fuel bill, and given that in Europe MGO currently costs more than €470 (US$550) per tonne, we are not talking pennies here. I don’t want to beat the drum for our vessels too much here, but the point is that if fuel consumption and exhaust gasses are given consideration, the planet would benefit greatly without additional investment being required.

Many considerations are borne in mind when a vessel is chartered – my suggestion is to make a vessel’s carbon footprint part of this. Is a large vessel really needed for the project or would a smaller one suffice? Once a decision on the most suitable vessel type for the project has been made, another question could be how much fuel do each of the shortlisted vessels consume? Making such questions part of the vessel selection process would really help to reduce harmful emissions.

For the shipping industry as a whole, there may be an added advantage. When comparing vessels, one will often find that older ones are less fuel efficient. If older vessels are no longer chartered they will be scrapped, which would help reduce the current vessel supply overhang.

One charterer doing this may have limited impact but if many charterers include carbon footprint in their vessel selection criteria, the impact would be significant. The charterers would have to take a small step, but the step forward for mankind would be truly big.

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