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Interview: Headway Technology Group charts maritime decarbonisation ambition with portfolio expansion

21 Feb 2023

In an exclusive interview with Singapore-based bunkering publication Manifold Times, China-based maritime technology firm Headway Technology Group (Qingdao) Co., Ltd. recently shared its maritime green technology achievements for 2022, the development of a new fuel supply system for alternative bunker fuels and its forecast for maritime decarbonisation:

MT: What company milestones related to maritime decarbonisation have Headway achieved in 2022 and why are these developments significant to the company?

Green shipping has been embedded in Headway’s vision and development strategy, so Headway spares no effort to help the industry accelerate its journey toward decarbonisation and has made great progress in 2022. In 2022, OceanGuard® Methanol Fuel Supply System(LFSS), developed independently by Headway, obtained the AiP certificate from RINA. In addition, Headway has established the Clean Energy Experiment Center which will focus on the R&D of clean energy technology, commercial application of R&D achievements, testing products and training etc. In the future, with the upcoming great process in the R&D of new low- and zero-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen and ammonia, Headway will launch a new fuel supply system suitable for green bunker fuels to meet the demands of the shipping industry.

Besides alternative bunker fuels, Headway also threw itself into the R&D of the traditional methods for decarbonisation over the last two years. Ship-based carbon capture technology is one of them. In 2022, OceanGuard® Carbon Capture, Storage & Utilisation (CCSU) has achieved great progress in R&D and made a big splash in its debut at SMM 2022. Many visitors paid attention because of its outstanding advantages, such as reliability, cost-effectiveness, high efficiency and so on. One point should be noted that OceanGuard® CCSU leverages the latest technology so that is only one-tenth of the size of a traditional CCSU unit while ensuring system stability. 

MT: What is the business direction and company forecast for Headway Technologies in 2023? How have earlier developments in 2022 led to its current plan for 2023?

Under the target of IMO decarbonisation, the related environmental regulations will continue to drive fleet renewal decisions by vessel owners in 2023, with methanol, ammonia and carbon capture technology among the solutions they include in their investments.

The year 2023 will bring much-anticipated methanol dual-fuel vessel orders and the global methanol-fuelled fleet will grow with a huge jump over the next two years. Headway will grab the opportunity to engage clients and provide one-stop service on the basis of Headway’s advantage in this field.

In 2023, decarbonisation would come to a standstill without rapid developments in two- and four-stroke engine technology and the industry is pouring resources to underpin the R&D of engine-fueled clean energy. Therefore, Headway will invest more capital and resources to accelerate the R&D process of ammonia-fuelled supply systems to achieve more in this field.

Currently, many participants who engage in onboard carbon capture are busy with conceptual design and front-end engineering design study of the carbon capture system. This study is ongoing and is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2023. This is the first phase and Headway has finished it before SMM 2022. In 2023, Headway will devote itself to procurement and construction of the system, including onboard experiment and commissioning.

MT: What are the differences between FGSS and EGCS manufactured by Headway as compared to other shipyards? If I am a shipowner, why will I choose products manufactured by Headway?

OceanGuard® FGSS is dependently developed by Headway and has obtained the AiP certificate from major classification societies such as DNV, BV ,RS, RINA, NK, etc. It is worth noting that the system is also the first one in the industry to obtain the SIL Functional Safety Certificate. Headway can also provide tailor-made solutions and services from initial design to commission according to the demands of clients. 

As an example, Headway utilised its experience in retrofitting a Ballast Water Management System (BWMS) to enhance installation efficiency by performing a 3D scan and design in advance during our last retrofit delivery. According to the feedback from customers, about 15% to 20% of fuel cost will be saved from the deferential price between fuel oil and LNG.

OceanGuard® EGCS is also independently developed by Headway with a comprehensive energy-saving and user-friendly system that can be customised. From the feedback of Headway’s clients, three main points play a significant role when shipowners make their decision. 

  • Safety. OceanGuard® EGCS adopts ultra-micro atomisation technology, which overcomes the conventional disadvantages of scrubbers, such as high back pressure of the main engine, inconvenient replacement of packing, and cracks inside the tower body. This minimises scale accumulation for a long time due to the high-temperature evaporation of seawater. Scale accumulation aggravates the back pressure of the main engine and causes a series of main engine combustion problems.
  • Saving cost. OceanGuard® EGCS can adjust the power of the seawater pump in real time according to the real-time working conditions of the main engine, to achieve the maximum energy-saving effect and save every penny for the shipowner.
  • High-quality. OceanGuard® EGCS uses top European parts and spares to ensure a high quality system.

MT: What is Headway’s forecast for maritime decarbonisation? What are maritime decarbonisation’s greatest challenges and its possible solutions?

Concluding with one word from what we know from the customer surveys, the greatest challenge lies in “uncertainty”. Agreeing with the shipping community, Headway believes we should start to take the first step instead of waiting for the one perfect solution.

Headway holds the opinion that decarbonisation can be achieved by multiple approaches, which include the solutions we are providing to the industry and several other approaches such as:

  • Digitalisation: Digital solutions especially with route optimisation can greatly increase energy efficiency and the technology will great benefit those vessels not ready to invest big money in decarbonisation;
  • EPL & ShaPoLi: It’s already a common agreement that EPL or Shaft Power Limit can be the easiest way to meet EEXI requirements. The solution has many limitations, but every kilogram counts on the pathway to decarbonisation.
  • Drop-in Fuels: For those vessels not ready for applying alternative bunker fuels, drop-in fuels are always a great starter towards decarbonisation;
  • Anti-Biofouling: As mentioned by GloFouling Partnerships, a layer of slime as thin as 0.5mm covering 50% of the hull surface will lead to a 25% increase in GHG emissions;
  • Optimized Naval Structures: This includes many approaches including the wind deflector such as ONE Trust equipped recently;
  • Air-Lubrication: Air lubrication is a proven effective approach to reducing GHG emissions with minor retrofitting on the vessel;
  • Hydrogen/Ammonia Fuel: H2 (LH2) and NH3 are the final solutions to decarbonisation. They might take a longer time to come. Headway will proudly be there with all our customers when the time comes.
  • Onboard Production of Hydrogen: The technology can greatly use the onboard Methane/Methanol infrastructure to provide blue hydrogen for vessels.

MT: Which technologies are easiest for vessels to implement in order to meet IMO 2030 standards and why?

In line with the ambition of the IMO GHG Strategy, the path toward decarbonisation will include a series of different solutions as various technologies have their characteristics that greatly influence shipowners’ decisions. Till now, the available solutions give two paths. The first path is combining alternative fuels with carbon capture technology. Alternative marine fuel with lower carbon content — including LNG/LPG and methanol— serves as a promising solution to preventing pollution from the source. The related technologies of the LNG/methanol fuel supply system have been well-developed and now LNG/methanol-fueled vessels have made their way to sea. However, LNG and methanol only can cut 15% emission of carbon dioxide after combustion. To meet the IMO 2030 target, carbon capture technology should be considered to avoid releasing carbon into the atmosphere. 

The first path is innovative and needs shipowners to do a lot of retrofitting to meet the requirements of vessels being fuelled with LNG and methanol, such as installing alternative fuel tanks, equipping them with LNG/methanol-fueled engines and so on. Therefore, path one is more suitable for new-building vessels but it imposes more restrictions and difficulties for existing vessels in installing alternative bunker fuel supply systems. The second path is needed to help shipowners meet the 2030 target with less retrofitting and less cost, which means installing scrubbers and a carbon capture system. With this, there is no need to retrofit the engine and fuel system as shipowners still can combust fossil fuel. 

To ensure an approach that is tailored to meet shipowners’ needs, Headway remains committed to providing high-performance solutions, technical support and consultancy according to size and type of ship, route it sails, onboard space and engine type. For path one, OceanGuard® FGSS and LFSS can meet shipowners’ need for alternative bunker fuel supply systems and OceanGuard® CCSU can capture carbon from the combustion of LNG and methanol. For path two, OceanGuard® EGCS is capable of absorbing SOx from the combustion of fossil oil. In the future, Headway will play more roles in helping the marine industry sail towards net zero.

MT: What initiatives have China introduced to help vessels meet IMO 2030 emissions standards and what is the timeline for them?

According to the CCS report, Outlook of Shipping Low Carbon Development, China has been taking decarbonisation as a major task during development via an initiative made back on 14 October 2021. This development focuses on reaching the CO2 Emissions Peak before 2030 and achieving carbon neutrality before 2060 (aka 3060) as targeted in September 2020. In order to accord with the timeline, China is empowering the transport sector to a “Low-carbon” path: By 2030, 40% of the new-built transportation should be powered by clean energy, and the carbon intensity of transportation should drop by 9.5% compared to the level of 2020. Also, facilities providing LNG, methanol, and hydrogen are under schematisation.


Photo credit: Headway Technology Group
Published: 21 February, 2023

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