With the wind in favor: Innovation and sustainability in the transport of oil by sea

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Author: Ing. Mayuly Rodríguez, June 24, 2023 .

Introduction

Maritime traffic companies are adopting innovative technologies, where oil transport is promoted in order to make its greatest contribution towards the energy transition. Global demand for oil and its derivatives remains high, and ensuring efficient and sustainable transportation has become a pressing priority.

It is necessary to explore and adopt new technologies and alternative fuels to minimize the environmental impact of this large-scale transport. The new technological developments in this sector aim to innovate in maritime transport, focusing on energy efficiency, emission reduction and spill prevention, with a vision that points towards a sustainable future.

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In alliance with new technologies, significant improvements are experienced in terms of sustainability and reduction of polluting emissions. From the use of alternative fuels to the implementation of sail technology and carbon capture, advances in this field present interesting alternatives to reduce the carbon footprint of oil transport by sea .

Oil Transportation Transformation: Steps into the Future

Oil transport has been one of the most demanding in the maritime industry over the years. Its importance lies in the need to mobilize large volumes of oil and its derivatives globally, guaranteeing the constant and efficient supply of vital fuels for the world economy.

As oil transportation evolves , significant improvements are achieved. For decades, technological advances have been essential in the search for more sustainable solutions. Over time, oil tankers have been modernized, with improvements in energy efficiency.

More efficient engines, advanced propulsion systems and energy management technologies have been developed to maximize the ratio between load carried and fuel consumption. Also the use of alternative fuels is a response to the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, they have developed biofuels that can now partially or totally replace conventional fuels.

It has also been effective, the implementation of strict security measures and immediate response plans for spills, such as double-hull systems on ships, permanent monitoring systems, more sophisticated loading and unloading controls, and extensive training for crews.

Energy efficiency in the transport of oil by sea

Through the development and application of innovative technologies, macro advances have been made in reducing energy consumption from fossil fuels and, therefore, in reducing polluting emissions produced by current assets in the maritime sector. Some of the improvements developed and implemented are mentioned:

  • Technological developments to reduce energy consumption: This includes the implementation of more efficient propulsion systems, such as low-friction motors and combined gas turbines. In addition, advanced energy management systems have been incorporated that optimize the use of electricity on board, thus minimizing waste and improving the overall efficiency of the ship.
  • Optimization of routes and speed of oil tankers : Through the use of real-time monitoring technologies and data analysis systems, the shortest and most efficient routes are identified, avoiding dense traffic areas, waiting times in ports or adverse weather conditions. In addition, the optimization of browsing speed makes it possible to find the right balance between energy efficiency and meeting delivery deadlines.
  • Implementation of efficiency measures in the loading and unloading processes: They have a great impact on reducing energy consumption. These automated and optimized systems minimize losses and ensure an efficient transfer of oil between the ship and port facilities. In addition, the improvement of monitoring and control systems allows precise management of cargo flows, avoiding overloads or underutilization of storage tanks.
  • Effective digital technologies: Maritime companies in general, including oil tanker transport companies, have gradually increased their investments in technology, automation and connectivity. Among the resources that are being used the most are IoT, artificial intelligence, automatic learning (machine learning), blockchain, big data and intelligent interfaces that integrate and centralize data and information related to port transport operations , thus achieving smart ports that only require technology and know how to optimize its use.

The replacement or combination of fuels in existing vessels, the use of digital technologies, the acquisition of a sustainable fleet, among other options, contribute to greater energy efficiency and a reduction in emissions.

Alternative fuels in oil transportation: Pursuing sustainability

In search of greater sustainability and reduction of emissions, the maritime industry is actively exploring the incorporation of environmentally friendly fuels. Which offer a cleaner and less polluting alternative compared to fossil fuels. Below are some of the most promising options, their benefits, and challenges.

Fuels, such as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and biofuels, present very compelling advantages. LNG offers a significant reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions compared to conventional fuels. In addition, biofuels would clearly reduce CO2 emissions by being produced and used in a sustainable manner.

Zero emission fuels that are derived from other renewable energy sources, chemical alternatives that allow energy to be obtained from chemical reactions, and batteries and other energy storage systems.

However, the implementation of these fuels presents adversities such as their production for continuous availability and the necessary infrastructure to store, distribute and supply them on a large scale and efficiently. In addition, the initial cost and process changes for retrofitting existing vessels and propulsion systems pose financial, logistical and time challenges, but will be worth it in the end.

Today, maritime organizations are engaged in exploring the best sustainable fuel options for their shipping fleet. Research and pilot projects are continually being conducted to assess the feasibility and performance of alternative fuels under various operating conditions.

The transition to the use of alternative fuels is a gradual but promising process. The maritime industry is fused with research institutions, renewable energy companies and regulatory mechanisms to overcome challenges and promote the use of more sustainable fuels in its transport.

Non-traditional fuels and energy sources, such as biofuels, batteries, hydrogen or ammonia, are emerging as possible alternatives for maritime transport, as they offer the possibility of decarbonizing the sector and reaching the goal of zero emissions. . Shore power supply (where ships shut down their engines and connect to a power source on shore while berthed in port) can also provide a clean power source at seaports and inland ports 1 .

Sail Technology and Carbon Capture in Oil Transportation: Promising Alternatives

The development of ultra-modern sailboats for oil transport vessels presents an interesting opportunity to reduce emissions into the atmosphere. Candle technology has been used since ancient times and has experienced significant advances in recent years, in order to promote environmental sustainability.

Modern sails, made of light and resistant materials, have proven their effectiveness in propelling large vessels, including oil tankers. By harnessing wind power, sail technology complements traditional propulsion systems, thereby reducing fossil fuel consumption and associated emissions.

In addition, carbon capture has also become a promising solution to mitigate emissions from the hydrocarbon-powered maritime fleet. This technology involves capturing and storing the CO2 emitted by oil tankers. There are different approaches to carbon sequestration in the transport of oil by sea.

One of them is the direct capture of CO2 emissions produced by ship engines. This is achieved through the installation of equipment, filtering systems and subsequent storage of carbon dioxide. Another option is carbon capture through offsetting, where emissions generated during transport operations are offset by funding carbon reduction projects in other industries.

Also noteworthy is the design of battery tankers, which include dedicated gas emission control and fire extinguishing mechanisms to ensure safety. Real-time monitoring of the battery system, charge controllers, and power conversion systems further enhance safety measures 2 .

It is important to highlight that these approaches are in progress and require continuous investments for their research, development and implementation by companies.

Environmental impact of transporting oil by sea

The emissions generated by the shipping of oil contribute significantly to global warming due to climate change. In recent years, measures have been taken to mitigate its impact. The use of fossil fuels in oil tankers produces large amounts of polluting gases, which have detrimental effects on marine ecosystems and human life.

This is because the large ocean-going ships use very dirty fossil fuels for their propulsion, mostly heavy fuel oil. This is a product that contains high amounts of sulfur, ash, heavy metals, and other toxic residues. In their combustion, in addition to CO2, they emit high levels of sulfur oxides (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), highly dangerous pollutants for human health 3 . Likewise, they generate underwater noise, hydrocarbon contamination due to spills, all of these effects being highly detrimental to the environment and air pollution.

It is essential that the maritime industry continue to invest in research and development to optimize maritime transport processes, thus contributing to naval companies adopting these new schemes for their transport fleet and complying with the strictest environmental standards and regulations, avoiding sanctions and offering cleaner processes.

Conclusions

The transportation of distribution of hydrocarbons by sea has evolved significantly over the years, with innovations and practices to face environmental challenges. But incorporating zero-emission technologies, using renewable energy during the transit and docking of vessels, and automating port processes are highly effective measures to combat climate change, reduce emissions, and be more efficient, sustainable, and safe.

Energy efficiency, alternative fuels, biofuels, and the implementation of carbon capture and candle technologies are promising advances that companies have available to continue reducing emissions and thus be more environmentally friendly.

Although there are challenges, such as infrastructure and costs, organizations are working hard to overcome them and take advantage of the environmental advantages of these fuels. But this challenge that the maritime industry faces cannot be solved individually or in isolation. It is essential that all ports collaborate to face these challenges, because time is pressing to achieve maritime sustainability .

References

  1. https://www.eea.europa.eu/es/highlights/el-transporte-maritimo-en-la
  2. https://inspenet.com/noticias/powerx-x-primer-buque-cisterna-de-baterias/
  3. https://www.eldiario.es/opinion/tribuna-abierta/transporte-maritimo-contamina-miles-terrestre_129_1517031.html#:~:text=This %20es% is 20 due %20a% 20 heavy %20y% 20 other %20residuos% 20t %C3% B3xicos .
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