PIEZO - the way to an all-electric PSV

Through the PIEZO project, VARD has developed a concept design for a PSV using batteries as the primary energy source together with offshore charging.

26. May 2023

Piezo simulation

One of the great challenges facing the petroleum and maritime industries today is climate change. For 3 years VARD and partners Equinor, SINTEF, The Research Council of Norway, Corvus Energy and Solstad Offshore have investigated the feasibility of Plugin Electric vessels sailing emission free in the North Sea, with charging facilities offshore and onshore.

The project has successfully demonstrated technical and economic feasibility of the primary objective, a plug-in electric platform supply vessel (PSV), sailing emission free and charging offshore.

This is the PIEZO Project

PIEZO has:

  • Identified energy consumption models, from on-board measurements by application of big data methods
  • Developed a digital simulation twin for a plug-in electric PSV design
  • Identified promising solutions to the technical challenges of re-charging ships offshore, which are now being realized as part of our Ocean Charger project

The validation of the concept and development of a new PSV-design for battery electric operation isbased on thorough studies of current PSV operations and energy consumption, validated numerical simulation models of the ship energy system and research on technical and operational solutions for offshore charging.

Piezo project

Data collection in a digital twin

Thanks to the cooperation of Solstad Offshore, we have collected high qualtiy in-service data, forming the basis of the research.

- We saw a great need to develop precise digital simulations of energy systems, and a great potential within electrification and utilization of large battery packages in the offshore market. With PIEZO, we got a useful arena to research both these development aspects in parallel, says Henrik Burvang Research and Innovation manager in Vard Design.

The research has taken place at VARD Design, VARD Electro, with assitance from SINTEF Ålesund. SINTEF conducts independent research within digitalization, virtual prototyping and simulation, and machine learning, with special focus within maritime, fisheries, and aquaculture.

The result of the collaboration in this project, is a digital simulation twin that behaves identically to Solstad's PSV.

- Vard Design has developed out digital simulation modelling tools, which have now been verified by collected data over two years. Furthermore, we have developed a new model based on battery-electric propulsion and a brand-new PSV design, says Burvang.

Piezo simulation

Simulation for learning

- Using as little energy as possible is crucial for zero-emission ships. With simulations like this, we will be able to get a full overview of the energy flow in the ship before building it, and that is one of the reasons why this simulation model is a potentially powerful tool for future projects.

Henrik burvang

Corvus Norway AS is at the forefront of a new trend in the marine industry, the adaptation of hybrid-electric propulsion technology. Many groundbreaking electric and hybrid projects for the marine industry are powered by Corvus Energy battery systems.

Corvus Norway have supported the project with models to ensure accurate simulation models for dimensioning of battery packs, life cycle analysis and battery arrangements.

- We see that the concept of battery-electric PSVs is feasible and when we now also realize offshore charging through our innovation Ocean Charger, this will be very attractive for the offshore and renewables market. The research project PIEZO has laid the foundation for our new all-electricconcepts, Henrik states.

The Vard Group, of which Vard Design and Vard Electro are part, has built the equivalent of 35 % of the 160 PSVs in Norway’s active fleet. Around 50 PSVs in today’s fleet are over 15 years old and will need renewal to meet new environmental demands. Conservative estimates indicate there is the potential for at least 10 new plug-in electric PSV’s just in Norway by 2030.

- Solstad Offshore and Equinor have a great interest in the electric PSV concept and the infrastructure of charging offshore and have been important contributors when it comes to the operational perspective. They spar with us on the concept and solutions and give us feedback on what is realistic, Henrik explains.

Not enough to switch fuel

Thomas Olsvik has worked with design at VARD since 2011. He is currently VP Conceptual Design at Vard Design.

- There is a long process behind what will now be a zero-emission ship. Even before we started looking at fuel, we had been working for several years on the next generation PSV concept. This includes major improvements in propulsion and hull resistance. Because regardless of the fuel, it's about reducing energy consumption for the mission the boat will do, Olsvik explains.

Hull optimization is an important part of this work. Therefore, VARD has developed a tool that ensures greater understanding among both the customer and others involved.

-The tool makes it possible to optimize the hull design early in the project. Thus, the hull design can be optimized for the operation the customer will perform. This means that we can sit down with the customer and show how the choices they make will affect their energy consumption, says Thomas Brathaug, Principal Naval Architect Conceptual Design at Vard Design. He and his team have worked closely with the team in Research and Innovation in the PIEZO project.

However, hull optimization alone is not enough. All design disciplines at VARD have a great responsibility to reduce energy consumption.

-The hull development has become very good, but there are several other things we need to look at - both we at VARD and those who will use the ship. Many PSVs are too big, and we have a lot of improvement to do when it comes to, for example, interior design, operation, and other support systems. In the future, I think we will see more specialized PSVs, says Olsvik.

IMG 4894

Always one step ahead

The interdisciplinary collaboration between Concept Design and Research and Innovation is essential to ensure that VARD looks further ahead than the individual projects.

So, when can we really expect to see an all-electric PSV in operation? Thomas Olsvik is cautious about making promises, but if things go according to plan, it doesn't have to take more than three years.

-The technology is there. Now it's just a matter of finding the balance in terms of finances, range, and so on. In theory, we could see an all-electric PSV in operation earlier, but it must work out for both tenant and shipowner. Either way, we at VARD are ready, says Olsvik.