British Power Company To Build World’s First Wood-powered Cargo Ship

British Power Company To Build World’s First Wood-powered Cargo Ship - Merchant Navy Info - News

British power company Drax has drawn up plans for the world’s first wood-powered cargo ship. They are claiming that the controversial power source can help to cut greenhouse gas emissions from sea freight.

Drax is a tree-burning power station in the UK. It has signed a deal with three Japanese shipping companies to develop a “bioship” fuelled by wood chips instead of marine diesel. The company hopes to see the first wood-powered cargo ship set sail by 2029.

The vessel would ferry woodchips harvested by Drax from North American forests to new markets in Japan.

Drax and its Japanese partners said such wood-powered cargoship would open the way to zero-emission shipping for many other cargoes.

However, the plan will infuriate many environmental groups who argue that cutting down forests for fuel is the wrong way to reach net zero.

Drax’s chief commercial officer, Paul Sheffield, said the company wanted to decarbonize its supply chain and become carbon-negative by 2030. 

He said: “This is an important step in developing the technology required to power and launch the world’s first bioship.

“This will support Drax’s decarbonization goals but could also drive the innovation needed to transform shipping and cut carbon emissions and fuel costs in global supply chains.”

Under the memorandum of understanding, signed at the British Embassy in Tokyo, Drax will help develop an onboard biomass fuel plant designed to burn wood.

The new bioship would be built by Hiroshima-based Tsuneishi Shipbuilding and operated by NYK Line, a global shipping company with 811 cargo ships, and its subsidiary NYK Bulk & Projects Carriers (NBP). Tsuneishi’s managing executive officer, Kenichi Shibata, called the project a “world first.”

Drax Power Station Is A Green Giant or Burning Issue?

Drax is best known in the UK for its giant power station in Yorkshire, which last year generated around 6pc of the country’s electricity by burning 6.4m tonnes of wood—equivalent to 27 million trees—mostly imported from North America.

Drax’s giant power station is located in Yorkshire’s ‘Megawatt Valley’

For comparison, the New Forest in Hampshire has around 46 million trees.

Drax and its supporters argue that wood is a sustainable energy source. 

However, critics point out that trees grow much more slowly than the time it takes to use them for fuel, raising questions about their sustainability. The UK Government supports using wood as fuel. It has given Drax subsidies for producing green energy, which amounted to £617m in 2022 and £587m in 2023.

In February, Drax chief executive Will Gardiner said he wanted to build more wood pellet plants in the US. He wants to double production to 8 million tonnes by 2030.

Drax Eyes Biomass for Japan

In a statement on Tuesday, the company said, “Biomass is playing a growing role in Japan’s transition from fossil fuel power generation to low-carbon and renewable electricity. Also, the country’s demand for biomass pellets. It is sourced primarily from North America and composed of sawmill and forestry residues, which is increasing.

“The biomass fuel plant would use a gasifier to combust Biomass at high temperatures to create gases. It would then be used to power a generator.

“This could see a 22pc reduction in carbon emissions when compared to using fossil fuels. If this development is successful. The companies will jointly study the possibility of building a bioship by the end of 2029.”

Green campaigners said the plan was designed to exploit carbon accounting loopholes rather than save the planet.

Merry Dickinson of Axe Drax, campaigning against the company’s plans to expand wood burning, said: “Burning wood pellets emits as much carbon as coal. This latest move is nothing more than another greenwashed scam from Drax.”

Sally Clark from Biofuelwatch said, “Using wood pellets to power ships will only lead to more climate-wrecking emissions. It will prove harmful to wildlife and pollute communities. If we are to avoid the most harmful impacts of climate breakdown, we need to protect and restore the world’s forests. We must not allow big polluters like Drax to send our futures up in smoke.”

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