The Drax Group, whose U.K. power stations generate electricity using wood pellets produced from sustainable low-value commercial forestry residues, is also a major supplier of those pellets worldwide. Now it is looking for a greener way to get them from North America, where its pellets business is based, to power stations in Japan.
It is partnering with Japan’s MOL Drybulk to develop pellet carriers fitted with MOL’s Wind Challenger hard sail technology, with first ship expected as soon as 2025.
Drax says that under a recent Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), the two companies will study the feasibility of deploying a first and second generation Environmentally Friendly Bulk Carrier (EFBC) to carry Drax’s biomass.
The first EFBC will use MOL’s automated telescopic hard sail technology – Wind Challenger, and will evaluate the application of other technologies including rotor sails.
The second EFBC aims to at least halve emissions with new vessel designs that use multiple Wind Challenger sails, other low-carbon technologies in development and the use of alternative fuels such as ammonia, liquefied natural gas and synthetic fuels.
MOL Drybulk’s work will include developing the technologies that will be used and liaising with the shipyard where the vessel will be built and fitted with the hard sail technology. Drax will work with the ports and terminals in the supply chain on the operational feasibility studies.
Drax says the MoU with MOL Drybulk follows previous work with the Smart Green Shipping Alliance to look at the potential of fitting innovative sail technology on ships transporting biomass from the U.S. to the U.K.
“MOL Drybulk’s hard sail technology has the potential to transform the maritime industry, cutting emissions and fuel costs and supporting global efforts to address the climate crisis,” said Drax Group chief executive Will Gardiner. “This partnership to advance this crucial new technology will support Drax’s commitment to reduce its own supply chain emissions and could also deliver far-reaching benefits across a number of different sectors that rely on ships to carry goods to customers around the world.”