Interview: Kongsberg's Geir Oscar Løseth Discusses the Hybrid OSV

November 25, 2020

Island Crusader – Credit: Kongsberg Maritime
Island Crusader – Credit: Kongsberg Maritime

On the back of a recent deal struck by Norway's Kongsberg Maritime to supply turnkey hybrid battery solutions for three of Island Offshore's platform supply vessels, Offshore Engineer has interviewed Geir Oscar Løseth, Kongsberg Maritime's General Manager Sales, Advanced Offerings, to learn more about the push to get more offshore vessels to go hybrid.


OE: What is behind the Norwegian offshore support vessel sector's increasing drive to install batteries and go hybrid?

Løseth: Batteries and hybrid technologies are a key strategy for reducing fuel consumption and, consequently, emissions. Moving towards electric drive is also important in reducing maintenance costs and meeting charter requirements. Kongsberg Maritime is proud to offer vessels and technologies that are both more efficient and safer than previous standards, which is vital both for sustainability and safeguarding business in today's tough market.


OE: You've recently received an order to upgrade three Island Offshore's PSV's to run on hybrid power, including a lithium-ion battery solution. Kongsberg has said that Island Offshore has set "a clear precedent in the market" by contracting Kongsberg for the upgrade. How so?

Løseth: Kongsberg Maritime has cooperated closely with Island Offshore for many years and has developed a deep understanding of how their vessels are used. This has aided us in producing an ideal solution for the customer, which will adapt and scale for use on similar vessels.


OE: How expensive is such an investment for an OSV owner in Norway? What is the payback time? Is there government support?

Løseth: A typical turnkey solution costs NOK 18 million -23 million [USD 1,96 million - 2,51 million]. Without funding, the typical payback time is 4-6 years. However, in Norway, there are several government financial initiatives, ENOVA and NOX Fund being key enablers for several projects of this type.


OE: Can you talk about charging patterns, capacity, capabilities, battery lifetime? How much have things progressed in this space? If you can draw a comparison with smartphones, where charging times are going down, and battery capacity is increasing.

Løseth: We design our battery solutions to meet each vessel's requirements. Some need high charge rates; others may prioritize a long discharging period. All batteries have limits, and if they are used outside their design criteria, you will reduce their lifetime.

A typical battery installation of this type will be designed to function efficiently for its intended purpose for 10 years before degrading below its design specification. More demanding design criteria, of course, drive costs, so we always adapt our proposal to our customers' needs, budgets, and project frameworks.


OE: Apart from emissions reduction, what are the operational benefits of having such a solution onboard an offshore support vessel?

Løseth: Key benefits are redundancy and safety, but battery and hybrid solution also grant the possibility to run the vessel more efficiently in several operational modes. This leads to a reduction in engine running hours and maintenance costs. For some customers, the possibility for zero-emission operation in sensitive areas such as exposed harbors etc. is also important.

We have made our standard Containerized Energy Storage System with the option for charging via a shore connection too, meaning the vessel can be emission-free entering and departing port, and on the dock.


OE: When one says hybrid and/or battery in the offshore oil and gas space, one starts thinking green, environmentally friendly, safe. A casual reader will be familiar with lithium-ion batteries through, for example, usage in their smartphones. While it's not every day that one can hear about serious incidents, planes have been grounded in the past after batteries in phones, and hoverboards caught fire. So, is it 100% safe to have Lithium-ion batteries aboard offshore vessels? Especially in the harsh offshore environment?

Løseth: We have addressed this by designing our marine battery solutions with a high focus on battery safety. Kongsberg Maritime uses a 'three barrier' safety system, which allows us to offer our battery system in the market with a high level of confidence in its safety.

Our SAVe batteries use both passive and active barriers to prevent thermal runaway, with passive isolation to inhibit heat propagation between cells and modules, and active water mist cooling between modules. In addition, the batteries are carefully managed during both charge and discharge, with cells monitored and logged for voltage, temperature, and current to ensure optimal storage, life, and safety. Battery modules are housed in sealed cabinets which give us complete control over their surrounding environment and enable management of any released gases.


OE: How many offshore vessels have you fitted with hybrid solutions so far?

Løseth: We have so far delivered 62 hybrid/battery solutions, 43 of which are now in operation. The first battery system was delivered in 2012, and our first collaboration on hybrid systems with Island Offshore entered service in 2015.


OE: Apart from OSVs, where else do you see battery usage as feasible in the offshore energy space?

Løseth: In general, all market segments and vessel types can make use of battery power, in various ways. We have deliveries to several different segments.


OE: While Norway is almost 100% powered by "green electricity" from hydropower, and charging batteries with such electricity can indeed be called green, not every country has that "luxury." Do you see this as an impediment to the rise of battery-powered/hybrid OSVs elsewhere? For example, in countries where electricity is produced by coal plants?

Løseth: We believe that the key savings are delivered through better engine performance and reduced parallel operation due to redundancy. We, therefore, do not expect the main growth area to be in fully battery operated vessels, but more in hybrid solutions with other fuels such as LNG, Ammonia, Hydrogen, Bio Diesel or similar.

For example, a hybrid power retrofit project on a Platform Supply Vessel yielded measured reductions of 20% in fuel consumption and 43% in engine running hours. This was achieved by utilizing a redundant battery solution connected to the main switchboard for Dynamic Positioning operations.


OE: Do you see a future where all the offshore support vessels are battery-powered or hybrid? What needs to happen for this scenario to unfold?

Løseth: On a global level, we need all major players to take action to reduce emissions. Hybrid operation with batteries is a part of such reduction. Kongsberg Maritime's solutions team emission reduction with significant other savings which is not the case for all suppliers' battery installations.

I believe that future OSV's will have more efficient power systems, whereby multiple power sources are used in combination. Batteries will be a part of the solution, but not all of it. If we look to the aviation industry, none of the airlines own their engines any more: the have a 'Power by the Hour' solution where they pay for use of the machinery, which remains the property of the manufacturer. I think this type of business model can be applicable for the marine industry, especially as power systems become more complex to maintain. Kongsberg Maritime is leading the market by already offering this kind of solution, and I think this will be a growth area for our business going forward.

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