Battery-powered future

Corvus Energy is an expert in the development of purpose-engineered energy storage systems, whose innovative capabilities have earned the company a number of high-profile customers all over the world

Long before any other supplier had even conceived of deploying large-scale energy storage systems (ESS) for marine use, Corvus Energy – led by its prescient founders – was actively exploring the opportunity to create viable power supplies for hybrid and fully-electric applications. Founded in 2009, the company was the embodiment of its creators’ in-depth knowledge of both the maritime and battery industries. Having sensed what the future of industrial power might look like, they came together to create a ruggedized lithium ion model for use in heavy industrial applications, combining their finely-honed skills in battery management with what they have described as their ‘maritime DNA’. The result of Corvus’ initial efforts brought to the marketplace the AT6500 battery module, which was to be used on the Ampere – Norway’s first fully-electric, zero emission, passenger and car ferry. Fuelled by renewable energy rather than running on diesel, Ampere uses the same energy per route as a single household uses in three days, with the cost per route only 16 euros.

Speaking of this and other milestones reached by Corvus, which now has facilities in Canada, as well as in Norway, during the first decade of its history, is the company’s CEO Geir Bjørkeli, who also goes to great lengths to enlighten us as to what ongoing market trends are dominating the world of marine propulsion. “The Ampere ferry was put in operation in 2015 and has been sailing since, yielding fantastic results for both the operator Norled and us, as the ESS provider. For the nearly four years the vessel has been serving the Lavik to Oppedal route, it has sailed a distance equal to going six times around the Equator.

“In fact, what we consider a sort of unique selling point (USP) of ours, is the fact that we have gained huge operational knowledge and experience over the years. As of this moment, we have accumulated more than 2,000,000 running hours and, compared to our competitors, this is by far the most significant amount of practical expertise on maritime batteries achieved by a supplier,” Geir points out.

What is also perceived as a key differentiator for Corvus, is the business’ inherent understanding of what it means to be a maritime equipment supplier. Geir explains: “While this includes being well-prepared to comply with new and existing rules and regulations, it is also critical to possess the knowledge of what properties these batteries need to feature in order to survive and operate seamlessly in a real marine environment, taking into account factors such as vibrations and safety levels.”

Viewed as the backbone of Corvus’ safety philosophy, the lithium ion battery ensures improved system redundancy to meet marine requirements, allowing for optimal operational load on the engine in the case of hybrid vessels, whilst naturally 33reducing fuel consumption and harmful emissions. “Even on fully-electric ferries like Ampere that has the battery as main propulsion, we can guarantee that it can run safely. More and more smarter ESS solutions are to make their way to the front ranks of the industry in the coming years, with demands for new and more efficient concepts being heard in recent times,” Geir notes.

To advance its offering and get an early lead in the technology race, in 2016, Corvus launched a new battery called Orca Energy, which, it is safe to say, took the industry by storm, securing the business a large share of the market, due to it being fit for purpose and competitively-priced. Specifically designed to meet the operational requirements of hybrid and all-electric ferries, offshore vessel, tug boats, cruise ships, super yachts, and cargo vessels, Orca Energy boasts safety innovations such as cell-level passive thermal runaway (TR) isolation and TR gas venting. The former means that TR does not propagate to neighbouring cells and the passive isolation is not dependent on active cooling, while the latter refers to the presence of an integrated TR gas exhaust system, which enables gas to be easily vented to external atmosphere rather than the battery room. Corvus is the only ESS supplier providing passive isolation.

Added capacity
Since Orca Energy has already been recognised as the industry standard in marine batteries, Corvus has felt that the time is right for some substantial investment in its production facilities in Vancouver and Bergen, looking to upscale its capabilities and increase flexibility. Geir details: “First, we are expanding and upgrading our Vancouver factory to house a 200 MWh semi-automated battery production facility. In addition, we are developing a new R&D, design, and engineering facility there, and the project is expected to be completed by February 2019.

“At the same time, we are building up a fully-automated factory in Bergen to fulfil the strong growth in the European market that has resulted from new ferry tenders and the increased demand for hybrid energy systems in the offshore and shipping sectors. The total capacity will be 400 MWh and the site will be fully operational by Q3 this year. We anticipate it to help us immensely in our aspirations to develop a host of new products for different applications. The system we provide excels on all kinds of vessels and this is proven by the fact that we are working on types as diverse as cruise ships, ferries, yachts, offshore support vessels, container and cargo vessels, fishing vessels, workboats and port cranes. Furthermore, we were selected by Turkish ship designer and builder Navtek Naval Technologies to provide the battery for the world’s first all-electric tugboat.”

Relying on Corvus’ experience in supplying battery ESSs for numerous hybrid tugs, Navtek opted for a battery-powered propulsion system for the tug, as its small size and projected operation in a narrow and tight environment, made full electrification the most efficient and environmentally-friendly option. “A running industry trend sees operators go for the building of all-electric vehicles when these are to operate locally, and thus travel shorter distances,” Geir remarks. “It is still more common, though, that hybrid propulsion systems are sought after, and because vessels vary in their operational requirements, we are looking to create the right product for the right application.”

The offshore sector is also benefiting from Corvus Energy’s ESS systems, with a prime example being Eidesvik Offshore’s Viking Princess, a state-of-the-art offshore supply vessel, designed to safely service offshore installations in the extremely harsh waters of the North Sea. She was fitted with a lithium ion battery pack to enhance her efficiency, and the primary benefit of a hybrid system for a ship like the Viking Princess, is a 30 per cent reduction in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Platform supply vessels are also increasingly featuring Corvus solutions, with 36 offshore vessels to date operating all over the world. One of the latest orders is for the North Sea Giant – the world’s first DP3 vessel planned to operate on one gen set in normal weather. North Sea Giant will be in operation during mid 2019.

A cleaner future
The year ahead promises to enable Corvus Energy to introduce some of the concepts the company has been working on, with several new products in the pipeline. “We see that we need to adapt the batteries to the type of vessel instead of adapting one battery to all vessel types,” Geir says: “Further down the road, we see that there will hardly be a vessel built without some sort of an ESS in the next five years. This is driven mainly by the necessity of coming up with smarter solutions to reduce costs, but also by environmental concerns. Maritime transportation in total emits around 1000 million tons of CO2 annually, and is responsible for three per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions in total. The global shipping industry has a carbon footprint similar to that of Germany, but has made a commitment to halve emissions by 2050. More and more requirements are put into force that increase the demand for new solutions. Norway specifically has adopted a resolution to cut emissions from cruise ships and ferries in the UNESCO fjords, meaning that no later than 2026, every ship that operates in the zone has to be zero-emission. This will make the fjords the world’s first zero emission zone at sea.”

Further regulations in form of IMO 2020 have been drawn up by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which will ban ships using fuel with a sulphur 35content higher than 0.5 per cent, compared to 3.5 per cent now, unless a vessel has equipment to clean up its sulphur emissions. Any vessels failing to comply will face fines, could find their insurance stops being valid and might be declared ‘unseaworthy’ which would bar them from sailing.

“Then, what is perhaps even more important, is that people themselves are taking an interest in sustainability and demanding that their cruise holidays do not exert a harmful effect on the environment. This being said, the cruise industry is beginning to transform itself by investing in hybrid vessels to meet emerging requirements,” added Geir.

“Our role in this new reality is to push harder for the quicker expansion of this development. The system is truly technically-proven and nobody has any doubts that battery-powered ships are a safe, reliable and economically viable option. At Corvus Energy, we are incredibly proud to have pulled out such an innovative ESS and to be at the forefront of the strive for cleaner future. We are convinced that we have the right expertise and our mission is to be the world’s leading maritime provider of zero-emission solutions,” Geir concludes.

Corvus Energy
Products: Energy storage solutions for marine, oil and gas, and port applications

  • Invests heavily in new production facilities to meet the demand
  • Expanding its product portfolio and will launch several new products in 2019
  • Recently selected to provide a battery for the world’s first all-electric tugboat