Alfa Laval and Wallenius agree on a joint venture to develop modern wind propulsion

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Aiming to radically reduce the marine industry’s carbon footprint and overall emissions, Alfa Laval and Wallenius have announced their intention to form a new 50/50 joint venture. Called AlfaWall Oceanbird, it will focus on the development and realization of technology for fully wind-powered vessel propulsion.

The two companies collaborated previously on PureBallast, a solution for ballast water treatment. Now, through AlfaWall Oceanbird, they hope to pursue an innovative means of wind propulsion based on telescopic wing sails, which it is claimed could reduce emissions by 90% on the largest ocean-going vessels.

“Wind has a key role to play in decarbonizing the marine industry,” said Peter Nielsen, business unit president, Alfa Laval Marine Division. “Together with Wallenius, we will harness this abundant natural force to meet both climate needs and those of maritime businesses.”

Though designed for wind propulsion, the Oceanbird technology has more in common with modern airplanes than traditional sailing vessels. It comprises an array of rigid wing sails, built from steel and composite materials, that generate forward movement instead of vertical lift. These wing sails will be able to turn 360° to make optimal use of the wind.

The companies claim the technology will be valid for any vessel type, but it will be implemented first on a transatlantic car carrier. Able to carry 7,000 cars, the vessel will be 200m long and will cross the Atlantic in 12 days when sailing at an average speed of 10kts. AlfaWall Oceanbird will focus primarily on the vessel’s technical sailing aspects, such as the vessel control system that will steer the wing sail operation.

“Oceanbird wing sail technology will be not only an elegant solution but also a powerful driver of positive change,” added Per Tunell, COO Wallenius Marine and future managing director of AlfaWall Oceanbird. “Our vision at Wallenius is to lead the way toward truly sustainable shipping, and we are proud to partner with Alfa Laval in reaching it.”

“The wing sails are up to 80m tall and have a telescopic construction,” noted Nielsen. “Besides adjusting to catch the wind, they can be lowered to pass under bridges, to handle harsh weather conditions or for maintenance. Because they will interact with the hull in a sophisticated way, they will also require intelligent control.”

“We cannot wait until the end of the century to phase out fossil fuels,” concluded Tunell. “We must create realistic alternatives, including the infrastructure for delivering and supporting them. Wallenius is committed to wind propulsion, and we know from the experience with PureBallast that Alfa Laval can help us make it a global reality.”

The full story on the Oceanbird can be found in the latest issue of Electric & Hybrid Marine Technology here.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKI Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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