Corvus Energy: Low oil prices hindering battery take-up

Richmond: Low energy prices are keeping battery power developments at sea on the back burner, argues the head of one of the leading names in the alternative maritime power business.

Andrew_Morden CEO Corvus Energy

Andrew Morden,
Corvus Energy CEO

Speaking with Maritime CEO, Andrew Morden, CEO of Corvus Energy, says: “Low fuel prices have increased the payback period/ROI of the existing energy storage systems (ESS) solutions in the market as one of the main benefits of ESS systems is the reduction in fuel consumption and cost”.

Nevertheless, Corvus is plowing ahead with new developments. Last week it signed a multi-year agreement with LG Chem, the world’s leading manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion batteries, to supply lithium-ion pouch cells for Corvus’ next generation maritime energy storage systems (ESS).

Corvus technology powers more than 50 commercial hybrid and electric maritime installations around the world, with an installed-base totaling over 30 megawatt-hours.

Corvus Energy provides purpose-engineered energy storage solutions for marine, oil & gas and port applications in the form of modular lithium ion battery systems.

Battery systems are scalable to multiple megawatt-hours at up to 1200VDC.

“Hybrid battery power can offer improvements in fuel efficiency and emissions because, rather than sizing a diesel generator for peak power, it can be sized for average power,” Morden says. When full power is required, stored energy from the batteries comes into play. The ESS can operate in parallel for low power operation, while providing the necessary boost to the diesel generator(s) for high-power operations. This is referred to as load-levelling or peak shaving, in which the generator is maintained at a constant load (typically 80% of capacity), therefore saving fuel, cutting emissions and reducing maintenance costs.

Most of Corvus’s business to date has been centered in northern Europe and Scandinavia with the exception of its hybrid rubber tire gantry (RTG) port crane business in China.

“Customers want more powerful battery systems with smaller footprints,” Morden says, adding: “There is continual market pressure to do more with less, putting pressure on R&D budgets to improve battery design to increase energy density and improve power output.”

There is also, he says, a constant customer expectation for reduced pricing mostly due to reports that have predicted reductions in lithium Ion cell prices.

Beyond low oil prices, other impediments Morden sees getting in the way of greater battery takeup among shipowners include the initial capital cost of ESS based propulsion systems relative to the cost of standard propulsion systems. Then there is the misperceptions about safety.

“Even though marine ESS systems are proven to be safe, there is a perception that Li Ion batteries are not as safe as other marine systems which is not the case,” Morden stresses.

Corvus is set to unveil its Orca platform shortly, its next generation of energy storage systems.

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