This summer the Netherlands will see the deployment of a self-propelled container barge utilizing battery power, an undertaking supported by a long-term contract with the Dutch beer maker Heineken.
The battery-powered system will be provided by a Dutch company, Zero Emission Services B.V. (ZES) which was founded to make inland shipping more sustainable.
The barge power usage averages 1000 kW. With the help of one 2000 kWh ZES battery container, an inland vessel can sail for two to four hours. With two ZES battery containers, the vessel can sail a distance of 50 to 100 km or up to 62 miles.
ZES was founded by ING bank, energy technical service provider ENGIE, technology company Wärtsilä and the Port of Rotterdam Authority.
The project’s total cost is € 20 million for the first phase of operations. Financial support is provided by ING bank, ENGIE, Wärtsilä, the Port of Rotterdam Authority and the Dutch government. The government’s contribution is in the form of a grant from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Public Works.
ZES will offer a complete range of products and services, based on interchangeable battery containers charged with renewable power, charging stations, technical support and an innovative payment concept for ship owners.
A Port of Rotterdam press release explained that additional support comes from the Dutch beer-maker Heineken:
“The HEINEKEN beer company has entered into an agreement with ZES, who will be providing emission-free beer transports from the brewery in Zoeterwoude to Moerdijk for ten years - a vital vote of end customer confidence. Additional support comes from HEINEKEN, in the shape of a long-term transport agreement and an initial contribution to the development costs of a first ship operated by its carrier CCT. CCT will not charge any handling costs for the loading and unloading of the first ship.”
Willem Dedden, CEO of Zero Emission Services said in a 2020 announcement: “With ZES, we are introducing a systemic change in inland navigation, allowing barges to sail emission-free thanks to replaceable battery containers.”
The company’s ‘ZESpacks’ batteries are container size and will loaded onto the self-propelled barges along with the containers carrying freight.
Battery Packs Will Be Exchanged At Container Terminals
The ZES batteries “are charged with sustainably generated power. A network of open access charging points will be set up for exchanging battery containers.” Depleted ZES batteries will be exchanged for fully-charged batteries when the vessel arrives at the container terminal for loading and unloading: “so that ships can sail on quickly, with minimal waiting time.”
Dedden says the “energy containers are designed for multiple applications, so they can also be temporarily used on shore to stabilize the electricity grid or to meet momentary local demand for electricity. The system is future-proof because it is independent of the energy carrier. We will start out using batteries, but if hydrogen becomes cheaper in the future, hydrogen technology-equipped containers will be able to supply power in the same way.”
‘Pay Per Use’ Financing
ZES plans to rent out the battery power to lower the capital costs to vessel operators:
“In order to make the transition to emission-free sailing easier for skippers, an innovative ‘pay per use’ based financing model has been developed. As a result, ZES only charges the cost of consumed renewable energy and a battery container rental fee, so that the skipper’s operating costs remain competitive. However, ships must be equipped with an electric propulsion line.
Dedden provided further details to AJOT in an email:
“Among other things, we’ve had to deal with delays related to COVID-19 and due to the blockade of the Suez Canal … All this has resulted in that we’ve had to postpone sailing to the summer of 2021. We intend to contract four more ships this year.”
On the first vessel: “… we place 2 ZESpacks on board. These will take the place of two cargo TEU containers (20 ft) that normally would be cargo containers. The size and weight reflect the normal ISO (International Standardization Organization) standard requirements.”
He added “In theory, having 2 ZESpacks on board means 2 cargo containers less capacity, however, because we see that vessels are rarely fully loaded, having 2 ZESpacks on board doesn’t impact the amount of cargo in practice. Normal containers may be placed on top of the ZESpacks … Crew will have a direct training on the handling but the operation should not be different and fully integrated with their on-board operating systems.”
He says that “Fossil fuels today are still the cheapest solution but ZES challenges the application by the pay per use business model.”
In addition, operating costs will be lower not just from renting the batteries but also from lower maintenance costs: “The main difference in cost depends on the purchase cost of the electricity plus a small add-on for the use of the ZES battery pack compared to the cost of fossil fuel. Legislation and the push by (local) legislators will be a support that benefits ZES.”
Vessel operators “are still comparing cost levels to fossil fuels until shippers are willing to apply a premium for zero emission operation.”
Teus van Beek is technical manager for zero emission services and general manager market innovation at Wärtsilä. He helps other companies make decisions to become more sustainable. He told an energy industry publication that: “It used to be that the focus was solely on the products. Then we started to talk about how our products could improve the performance of a vessel. Now we are looking at the whole ecosystem the vessel operates in and we try to make that more efficient and sustainable.”
Van Beek supervises the Wärtsilä team’s installation of the ZES battery system and described, in an email to AJOT, how the propulsion system will work:
“For the average inland vessel, the time to operate on a single battery container is around 4-5 hours. This all is a result of the energy capacity of the battery container being 2000 -2500 kWh. The power rating is 1000 kW as a maximum. This power rating is sufficient for most vessels and allows a short charging time on shore (around 2-3 hours).”
The inland waterway vessels will operate on batteries only: “During the operation on the ZESpack (battery container) all power is generated by the batteries. No extra power source needed.”
However, a back-up system is required: “For inland waterway vessels the requirement is always have a second power source (in case) the first one fails.” The back-up could be “a small emergency genset or a second battery container.”
For the first vessel that will inaugurate the first ZES service: “the existing diesel genset (generator) will remain in the vessel. But during normal battery operation the diesel-fueled generator “can be switched off.”
Renewable energy regulations have been introduced into the operation of inland waterways and ports operations in the Netherlands that aim to make inland shipping more sustainable. With a transformation from diesel-powered inland shipping to fully electrically powered transport, the inland shipping sector is taking an important step towards realizing climate agreement goals of zero carbon emissions and zero emissions of nitrogen oxide, ZES says.
When the service was announced in 2020, Cora van Nieuwenhuizen, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, stated: “The Netherlands is frontrunner in sustainable transport by water. Well over 1/3 of all goods and 80% of bulk transportation takes place via inland waterways. Not only does this lessen truck transportation, which reduces traffic, inland vessels also emit significantly less CO2. That advance is extended even further with these new emission-free ships.”