HomeBussinessBritish power company to build world’s first wood-powered cargo ship

British power company to build world’s first wood-powered cargo ship


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British power company Drax has drawn up plans for the world’s first wood-powered cargo ship, claiming that the controversial power source can help to cut greenhouse gas emissions from sea freight.

Drax, which operates a tree-burning power station in the UK, has signed a deal with three Japanese shipping companies to develop a “bioship” fuelled by wood chips instead of marine diesel. It hopes to see the first wood-fuelled cargo ship set sail by 2029.

The vessel would itself be used to ferry woodchips harvested by Drax from North American forests to new markets in Japan.

Drax and its Japanese partners said such ships would open the way to zero-emission shipping for many other cargoes.

However, the plan will infuriate many environmental groups who argue that cutting down forests for fuel is the wrong way to reach net zero.

Paul Sheffield, Drax’s chief commercial officer, said the company wanted to decarbonise its supply chain and become carbon negative by 2030. 

He said: “This is an important step in the development of the technology required to power and launch the world’s first bioship.

“This will support Drax’s decarbonisation goals but could also drive the innovation needed to transform shipping and cut carbon emissions and fuel costs in global supply chains.”

Under the memorandum of understanding, signed at the British Embassy in Tokyo, Drax will help develop an on-board biomass fuel plant designed to burn wood.

The new bioship would be built by Hiroshima-based Tsuneishi Shipbuilding and operated by NYK Line, a global shipping company with 811 cargo ships, and its subsidiary NYK Bulk & Projects Carriers (NBP). Kenichi Shibata, managing executive officer of Tsuneishi, called the project a “world first”.

Drax is best-known in the UK for its giant power station in Yorkshire, which last year generated around 6pc of the country’s electricity by burning 6.4m tonnes of wood – equivalent to 27 million trees – mostly imported from North America.

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