Kite System Designed for Offshore Power Generation

By MarEx 2015-08-06 23:31:51

Kite Power Solutions has come up with an electricity generation system that it believes is more economical than traditional offshore wind farms.

The company has embarked on a £10 million ($15 million) funding round to support the commercial development of its kite power technology and is aiming to deploy its first 3MW power system in offshore waters by 2019.

Bill Hampton, Founder and Chief Executive of Kite Power Solutions (KPS) says: “We will be able to compete with offshore wind, without subsidies, by removing tons of steel from every MWh produced offshore. Quite simply, by removing the steel from clean energy you make it lighter per MW and thus cheaper, and with a lower carbon footprint. Our kite technology is easier and cheaper to deploy and maintain.”

Hampton says the technology can cut the capex of offshore farms by as much as 50 percent. Offshore wind installations are currently priced at around £140/MWh ($217) and are projected to fall to £78/MWh by 2020. KPS expects to reduce that cost to around £50/MWh by 2020.

In June of this year, Bill Gates described kite power as a magic solution, says Hampton. Whilst there are other systems under development around the world, the patented KPS system is unique, and the company is the only British one active in the kite power market.

KPS has invested over £3 million ($4.6 million) in research and development since 2011. Contributions have come from the U.K. Department of Energy’s Energy Entrepreneurs Fund and Shell.

The KPS power system has two kites that are flown on a man-made fiber tether between 500m (1,640 feet) to 750m (2,460 feet) in length. The tether is attached to a winch system that generates electricity as it spools out. By achieving flight speeds of up to 100mph in 20mph winds, tether tension causes the line to rapidly spool out from a drum which is connected to an electricity generator.

KPS’s kite and cable system reduces the amount of steel required compared to a traditional system by over 75 percent, and the anchor system to hold the KPS installation is equipment routinely used in the offshore oil industry to install FPSOs and other large ships. The lightweight KPS system can therefore be deployed in far deeper waters.

The depth limitations of the system will be economic, says Hampton, and driven more by distance from shore which drives maintenance costs and export power costs.

“Currently 100-150m is a reasonable water depth to target, but FPSO’s are moored in much deeper water, so the technology does exist to go deeper. The KPS floating platform and mooring requirements are being driven by the available metocean data available for existing and planned offshore wind arrays.”

Hampton says: “Conventional wind energy technology can’t go much further. Turbines are getting larger and conversion efficiencies are the highest they’ve ever been. Conventional offshore turbines require complex, expensive engineering, specialist installation vessels and tons of steel, the second most sought after commodity after oil. Both the industry and government need a step change in technology if the targets for renewables are to be met. Kite power generation offers a solution.”


Legal Action Started over California Spill

By MarEx 2015-08-06 20:10:13

Californian authorities have started legal action seeking fines for the May pipeline spill that released an estimated 101,000 gallons of crude oil on to beaches in Santa Barbara.

The Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has referred the Plains Pipeline’s May 19 Refugio Beach, Santa Barbara, oil spill to the California Attorney General for judicial enforcement.

The spill caused damage to marine wildlife and the environment and triggered ongoing cleanup and restoration efforts. Nearly 100 miles of beach was polluted.

“The Water Board will work closely with the Attorney General’s office to make sure all those responsible for the Refugio spill face the strongest enforcement measures allowed by law,” said Regional Board Chair Dr Jean-Pierre Wolff.

While the Regional Water Board has the authority to take administrative enforcement action on its own, this action allows the Attorney General to seek higher penalties when appropriate, and allows for more efficient coordination with other state and federal enforcement agencies.

State law allows the Attorney General to seek penalties of up to $25,000 per day of violation and $25 per gallon of oil spilled.

Cause for Concern

Earlier this week, the Center for Biological Diversity formally petitioned the U.S. federal government to inspect all pipelines off the coast of California for corrosion and other damage.

Millions of gallons of crude are pumped through these pipelines every day. “Rusty pipelines put California’s coast at risk of another destructive oil spill,” said Kristen Monsell, a Center attorney. “Dangerous oil drilling doesn’t belong in oceans, and aging pipelines and oil rigs increase the risk. Federal inspectors should examine every inch of these offshore pipelines to see if they’re as corroded and dangerous as the section that failed near Santa Barbara.”

The legal petition covers the 213 miles of pipelines in federal waters and additional pipeline in state waters closer to shore. These offshore pipelines are typically far older than the onshore Plains All American pipeline.

Preliminary findings indicate that the spill was caused by extensive corrosion of the pipeline that carries crude drilled and transported from offshore platforms and pipelines. The findings also suggest that the pipeline had corroded to a much greater extent than federally required reports from Plains had indicated, says the Center.

The Plains pipeline was 28 years old; many sections of the pipelines off California’s coast are more than 40 years old. Federal data show a significantly increased risk of failure as pipelines approach 30 years old and indicate that offshore pipelines are more vulnerable to damage than those onshore. Offshore fracking, which has been used at wells in the Pacific more than 200 times, only increases that vulnerability, says the Center.


University Building Fully Autonomous Ship

By MarEx 2015-08-06 18:01:31

In a move that could reshape the shipping industry, Plymouth University in the U.K. has launched a project to build a full-sized and fully-autonomous ship. The Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship (MARS) is being developed in partnership with MSubs and Shuttleworth Design, who bring knowledge of autonomous vessels and yacht design respectively. Plymouth University states that this is the first-ever project of its kind.

MARS is expected to take two and a half years to build and will sail across the Atlantic in 2020 after a year-long testing phase. 2020 was chosen because it is the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower sailing from Plymouth to North America. The vessel will follow the same sailing route the Mayflower took.

The new vessel will be a trimaran powered by renewable energy. It will operate as a research platform conducting scientific experiments during its voyage. MARS will feature several drones which performing a variety of experiments and serve as a test bed for new navigation software and alternative energy. The trimaran will also serve as a live educational resource to students who will be able to watch its progress.

In a statement, Plymouth University said: “While advances in technology have propelled land and air-based transport to new levels of intelligent autonomy, it has been a different story on the sea. The autonomous drone technology that has been used so effectively in situations considered unsuitable for humans has not been harnessed by the shipping industry, which continues to steer the conservative course, its diesel engines pumping out carbon emissions and its manned crews at risk from piracy.”

Shuttleworth Design is still developing design concepts for the MARS project, and they will soon prepare scale for testing in Plymouth’s University Marine Building. Plymouth University’s hope is to establish itself as a major contributor to marine research and an innovator in shipping.

Initial funding for the project has been provided by Plymouth University, MSubs, and the ProMare Foundation, and corporate and private sponsorship.


Suez Canal Races to the Finish

By MarEx 2015-08-06 12:49:05

Just one year after its announcement, Egypt’s expanded Suez Canal is open for business. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi led the inauguration ceremony, which was attended by several Middle Eastern and European world leaders. The publicly-funded expansion cost about $8.5 billion.

Expedited vessel transits and economic growth are Egypt’s primary objectives in the Suez Canal Expansion project. Already the fastest route between Asia and Europe, the new developments will cut transit time from 18 to 11 hours. The canal’s improvements include the construction of a 23-mile parallel channel which will allow two-way traffic and reduce waiting time.

More than 17,000 ships entered the Suez Canal in 2014, which is about 50 ships per day. Egypt expects the widening to increase traffic to about 97 ships per day and nearly 34,000 annually. The economic impact is expected to be immediate and substantial.

This is vital to a nation that has suffered a slump in foreign investment and tourism recently. Prior to expansion, 120-mile canal earned Egypt about $5.3 billion annually and handled about eight percent of the world’s sea trade. The Suez Canal Authority expects the upgraded canal to boost annual revenue to about $13.5 billion in 2023 and anticipates growth by at least another four percent.

The new channel is part of an effort to establish Egypt as a premier trade hub by building larger ports and shipping facilities throughout the canal. Egypt hopes to become an international and logistics hub, which will attract more foreign investment. The Suez Canal represents about 35 percent of the nation’s GDP.

In February, Egypt announced that it had cut corporate taxes in the area to one-third of the national rate to boost investment appeal.

The original expansion project was expected to take three years, but President El-Sissi demanded that the project be expedited.

Unrealistic Expectations?

While Egyptian officials forecast lofty economic gains, some shipping experts wonder if the financial impact is being overstated. Drewry, a shipping analyst in the UK, states international trade is determined by several factors, which includes demand, exchange rates and labor cost. It contends that lower shipping costs are just one part of the equation.

Drewry also added that the Suez Canal was not hitting capacity prior to the expansion, which raises questions regarding Egypt’s expectation of trafficking 97 vessels per day. The introduction of ultra-large box ships may impede the Authority’s expectation of doubling growth.

Arms Race

Maintaining its financial advantage over the Panama Canal, which handles only two percent of global trade, is a huge driving factor the expansion. The Suez Canal’s swift completion may be another factor in favor of Egypt. The expansion of the Panama Canal, which is due to open in 2016, was plagued by cost overruns and numerous delays. The Suez Canal handled about 963 million tons versus Panama’s 327 million tons.


Shipbreaking at virtual stand-still

The last seven days have seen a historically low level of activity in the ship breaking market, IHS data confirms.
Only two ships, Glory Sun, and LPG tanker Lady Stephanie have arrived at Alang and Aliaga to be scrapped.
“From Friday 31 July to today we have seen virtually no activity,” said Paul Clemenson, senior data transformation analyst for IHS Maritime & Trade.
“This is the first time ever that I can recall

Shipbreaking grinds to halt

The last seven days have seen a historic zero level of activity in the ship breaking market, IHS data confirms.
“From Friday 31 July to today we have seen no activity,” said Paul Clemenson, senior data transformation analyst for IHS Maritime & Trade.
“This is the first time ever that I can recall

Rio Tinto profit plunges 82%

Rio Tinto net earnings fell by 82% from USD 4.4 billion to USD 806 million in the six months to 30 June. At the same time, the company’s net debt rose 10% to USD13.7 billion, according to the 2015 interim results released today.
Chief executive officer Sam Walsh described the outcome as “robust”