BAR and Cargill - yacht technologies for wind powered tankers

Apr 29 2021

BAR Technologies has a project together with Cargill to bring wind propulsion technology to tankers, building on work done for yacht racing.

BAR Technologies of Portsmouth, UK, has partnered with global food corporation and tanker operator Cargill, and naval architecture firm Deltamarin of Helsinki, Finland, to bring “cutting edge wind propulsion technology” to tankers.


Cargill plans to install a bespoke wind propulsion technology, named “WindWings” by BAR Technologies, on a run of medium range (MR) product tankers by the end of 2022, followed by installations on dry bulk vessels the following year.


Wind power on merchant vessels has been increasingly discussed in recent years as the shipping sector looks to decarbonise, but so far, there has been no breakthrough solution. But before you turn to the next article, consider that the BAR in BAR Technologies stands for Ben Ainslie Racing.


Sir Ben Ainslie, a shareholder and director of BAR Technologies, can claim to be the most successful sailor in Olympic history, with golds at Sydney, Athens, Beijing & London (2000 to 2012) and silver in 1996 Atlanta.


BAR Technologies was founded to commercialise the maritime design technologies and technical skills developed by Ben Ainslie Racing, a team formed to compete in the America’s Cup of 2017.


The team competed in the AC45 class of the 2011-2013 Americas Cup World Series, and the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series, where it set a multi-hull record for the Round the Island Race. They then went on to win the 2015-2016 America’s Cup World Series and reached the 2017 America’s Cup semi-finals.


Simon Schofield, now CTO of BAR Technologies, was chief engineer for that team.


BAR Technologies’ team includes naval architects and engineers, fluid and aero dynamicists, composite and structure specialists, control and simulation engineers, with experience working in a highly competitive environment. It leverages this skillset to deliver innovative solutions for high performance / super yachts, leisure marine, heavy marine, and renewables.


On yachts, BAR Technologies has worked with sails as big as 45m high, the approximate size it has designed for tankers. One of the key differences is that the sails for tankers will be multi-element, using solid composite materials rather than fabric and are built for longevity and robustness rather than pure performance.


BAR Technologies has also developed sophisticated weather routing applications which take wind patterns into account when planning the best route for its vessels. Its bespoke toolset ShipSEAT will also control the flying shape of the WindWings through the voyage. It has used trained neural networks to design the accompanying hull form to take most advantage of the thrust from the WindWings.


“We've spent the last 8 years predicting the performance of wings in design and on the water,” Mr Schofield says of his previous career in the America’s Cup). “When we talk about simulating the performance of a wing, we're comfortable with the predictions we're making.”


John Cooper, CEO of BAR Technologies, is a former commercial and finance director of McLaren Racing, where he worked for 14 years on its Formula 1 racing programme. He joined BAR Technologies in October 2019.


Martin Whitmarsh, chairman of BAR Technologies, is a former Team Principal at McLaren.


30 per cent CO2 reduction

On tankers, a 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions from a tanker voyage on Cargill’s normal routes is a realistic expectation, the company says. This is based on simulation of real tanker voyages in standard weather conditions with no cherry picking, and covering both the laden and ballasted legs of the voyage. This average also takes into account the negative effects of head winds, and where the WindWings are de-powered in wind conditions that are too strong to fully control leeway.


“The 30 per cent is based on solid statistical analysis,” says John Cooper, CEO, BAR Technologies. “We’ll simulate 450 or 500 years’ worth of virtual ship voyages with differing start times and average those results.”


“Even though a key motivator for owners and charterers is reducing CO2 emissions, set to be mandated in future via the IMO rules, WindWings still presents a compelling business case.” 


Although he wouldn’t be drawn on the exact payback time while WindWings are still in the final stages of the cost tender exercise,  Mr Cooper says that the payback time of investing in the technology for tanker operators will surprise owners even when compared to relatively low heavy fuel prices, and a carbon price”.


“The payback period is very low, and looking to the future, will become lower when the industry switches to the more expensive zero carbon fuels, which could be $1000 a tonne”, he says.


“There are occasions with these wings, where you can theoretically turn the engine off at sea and do 13-14 knots under wind power, but of course in reality the engines will either charge or run hotel loads instead of using auxiliary gensets,” says Simon Schofield, CTO of BAR Technologies.



The sail proposed for tankers, which the company calls a “WindWing”, is rectangular.


The first configuration being tested involves wings 40m high, with three separate elements, a large one 10m across, and two which are 5m across, all rectangular. These three elements together act as one sail. Then there are three such sails on the ship, making for nine elements in total.


One of the biggest challenges of the project is ensuring navigator’s sight lines, which the tall sails obstruct. The modern solution is to use cameras and radar. The project team is also building extending the vessel’s bridge to the port and starboard, so it is possible to have a forward view which is not obstructed by sails.


The sails are designed so they are strong enough to withstand any weather conditions while upright. The sails can “feather” – spin around vertically 360 degrees. In a storm, they will align with the wind flow, and at this angle they produce very little drag.


“Part of the work we did with class was ensuring that we had considered all the [possible] environmental conditions,” Mr Cooper says.


The WindWings are also designed so they can be folded down flat on deck, which would be done pre-storm. They would be folded for going under bridges, and to avoid the sails causing complexities during manoeuvres in port operations, with pilots onboard or when tugboats are used.


The folding gives the sails a structural and cost advantage over a inwardly collapsing design, which other companies had considered for wind propulsion of vessels.


“We've done computer simulation on the effect the wing has on the turning circles and minimum [engine] power requirements,” Mr Schofield says.


The second challenge is ensuring structural integrity. While ships have a long history of using masts and sails, these vessels will have wings made of solid composite materials, and masts made from steel.


Fixing sails on bulk carriers has additional complications compared to tankers, because the sail assembly cannot get in the way of opening bulk carrier hatches and loading and unloading operations.


Seafarers will need a small degree of training to use the system. But all WindWings’ settings  will be entirely automated, so it just needs to be turned on and off.


Seafarers will also need to set the best rudder angle, but the system will also advise on the optimal action. As with any sailboat, the power of wind propulsion will depend on the angle the vessel and therefore this automation is key.


The company is looking at improved hull designs together with naval architect firm Deltamarin, because with wind power, the vessel slides sideways as well as goes forward, “With minor manipulations to the hull you can provide better efficiency,” Mr Schofield says.


BAR Technologies designs the wind propulsion system and controlling software in house.


Cargill project

The project with Cargill and Deltamarin was announced in October 2020 although the parties had been working together for a period prior to the announcement.


“Through this partnership, we will bring bespoke wind solutions to customers who are actively seeking to reduce CO2 emissions from their supply chain,” said Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill’s Ocean Transportation business in a press release quote.


“With the WindWings technology, Cargill will be able to offer customers a solution that improves vessel efficiency, independent of the fuel or type of engine used.”


As of January 2020, the project is being assessed for a class Approval In Principle (AIP) process. Mr Cooper is unable to reveal the name of the class society involved due to confidentiality agreements, but says they are “well known for wind propulsion systems".


One oil and gas company and another big tanker company have participated in the workshops, but Mr Cooper is unable to reveal their names at this point, as they wish to make a separate announcement regarding them becoming a full participant in the project.



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