4.1. Location of Energy Banks for Swapping
Kostin et al. [38
] assessed how much energy can be obtained from wind power and solar radiation in the North of the Russian Federation. Savard et al. [39
] mapped the maximum cumulative annual energy production potential per hectare (Figure 3
) for the North of the Russian Federation. The map also shows in dark green the ice limits recorded in recent years in summer in the Arctic Sea [40
To ensure the feasibility of producing this energy on site, because of the growing importance of autonomous electrical production in Arctic [41
], it is necessary to integrate an additional constraint, that of the presence of natural parks protecting the land, particularly on Wrangel Island [42
]. This eliminates some territories with the greatest potential. In the case of Wrangel Island, if it could not be used as a port of call, it would be possible to use the Leningradsky area, located at almost the same longitude, but on the mainland, since the potential for renewable electric power generation is equally high there. A new route is possible for the NSR, based on the route already proposed, taking into account environmental constraints, the potential for renewable energy production and the location of ports. It is drawn in dark red in Figure 4
The second aspect to be determined is the spacing between each port-stage. In the framework of this study, we will retain a distance between reloading harbors of around 1000 km. By considering only the ports located on the Arctic shores of the Federation, we will consider those located in the areas with the greatest renewable energy potential, outside the protected areas. They are listed in Table 7
, which also shows the distance between them. Beyond that, towards the West, to travel between Rotterdam and Shanghai for example, the same type of equipment should be added, located at similar spacing, namely around Moskenes Oya in Norway and close to the Shetland Islands in Scotland. In this latter case, to preserve the nature reserve, an off-shore port, powered by wind turbines and tidal turbines in the North Sea Doggerland, should be set up. Similarly, towards the East, stopovers should be added in Provideniya, Pakhachi, South Kamchatka, South Sakhalin Island, Vladivostok, before reaching the main Asian ports.
In total, between Rotterdam and Shanghai, there are 13 ports of call that should be arranged along the route, plus those of departure and arrival in Asia and Europe.
4.2. Estimated Needs for a Fleet of about 25 Vessels
Ships of 20,000 tons require between 625 and 1250 MWh to travel 1000 km. Taking into account the maximum spacing between ports of call, it is, therefore, necessary to produce, in the worst case, 1500 MWh per ship at each port of call. With an average production of 600 MWh/ha.year in areas affected by the presence of a port-ship, 1000 hectares would have to be devoted to supply a single ship in one day. In total, out of the 13 ports, an area of 41 by 41 km would then have to be used to supply one ship every day in each port. A Rotterdam-Shanghai trip made by the NSR at an average of 15 kt would require 23 days of navigation and 13 half-days of swapping, for a total of 36 days per trip. Taking into account the loading, unloading and maintenance operations of the ships, each of them could make 8 crossings in both directions each year. The swapping and navigation time between two ports is approximately two days. As there are 13 stages on the route, 13 ships can use the NSR in each direction. This would mean operating a fleet of 26 operational vessels, to which it is possible to add reserve vessels used to replace those involved in maintenance or heavy repairs. In one year, the NSR can potentially transports from one continent to another a total of 158,000 evp per direction and about 4 million tons of freight, the level transported in 2017, including the export of fossil fuels.
4.3. Economic Comparison of Operating Costs
To date, the production cost, including investments, of one MWh of renewable energy is estimated, for wind energy at 100€ and for solar energy at 150€ in France [43
]. The Russian Association of Wind Power Industry gives less frightening figures, indicating that by 2030, the average production cost of wind MWh could drop to 21€ (in the United States) [44
]. Its president, Igor Bryzgunov, specifies in [45
] that the first onshore wind turbines were installed in 2013 in the federation. At the start of 2020, they had a production capacity of around 200 MW and 400 MW are under construction. For 2024, the objective of a production capacity of 3.4 GW was announced. The cost of the MWh of wind origin should then pass from 50€ in 2015 to 28€ in 2030. We therefore consider for the study that, taking into account the often adverse climatic conditions, the production cost of the MWh of renewable energy in the North of the Russian Federation can be globally close to 50€ whatever its production source. Thus, the energy produced for a 1600 evp container ship (i.e., a minimum of 1440 evp of useful capacity) consuming between 800 and 1600 MWh of electrical energy (Table 6
) between two ports, costs to produce between 40,000 and 80,000€. This vessel would consume 0.105 T/km if it operated on fuel oil. For a journey at sea of 1000 km, it will then consume 105 tons of fuel oil. The price of heavy fuel oil is volatile. For example, on 30 November 2019, it varied from $
250 to $
500/T depending on its sales spot (specifically from Rotterdam to Los Angeles). On the Saint Petersburg market, heavy fuel is currently trading between 500 and 700€ while in the northern ports of the Russian Federation, such as Murmansk, the ton costs around 360€. With an average cost of $
400/T, or 350€/T, the cost of fuel oil is only close to 40,000€, i.e., on average
of the cost of producing the same electrical energy.
The cost of producing the electrical energy needed to fully electrify ships is, to date, more than five time the current cost of heavy fuel oil. Despite the environmental inconvenience of this viscous product, loaded with impurities and therefore numerous toxic substances, it remains cheaper in terms of marketing costs. This fuel contributes in particular to nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) pollution. Moreover, it is commonly accepted that
emissions in the European Union come from maritime traffic. If world oil and gas prices were to remain at their current levels, the cost of producing renewable energy would have to be halved or the amount of energy needed to move ships would have to be halved. Consider the possible solution presented in [32
] of equipping ships with wind turbines to combine mechanical propulsion and wind power, but without sails. The average power produced in autonomy thanks to the wind is then, according to the power of the winds on the routes taken, at least 193 kW. During the 36 h of navigation, a ship equipped with a wind turbine with a Flettner rotor would produce an autonomous quantity of almost 7 MWh, or less than one percent of the energy required. This self-generation remains too marginal to reverse the economic situation. Improving the mechanical efficiency of ship engines is another avenue that should not lead to the necessary leap in competitiveness. Moreover, this total electrification solution could make economic sense only if the cost of fuel oil increases more than twice.
However, these calculations should be weighted according to the time saved and the lower consumption compared to current roads. Taking as an example only the trips between Rotterdam and Shanghai, which are
shorter than those via the Suez Canal (Table 3
), the additional cost of fuel (electrical energy) is only
. The volatility of hydrocarbon prices is very high (the price of a barrel having evolved between $
25 and $
135 a barrel in seven years at the beginning of the century). The quality of hydrocarbons decreases with the duration of exploitation of this energy sector. With the beginning of the development of the Prirazlomnoye field on the Arctic shelf, a new grade of ARCO oil appeared/ARCO oil has a high density (about 910 kg per cubic meter), high sulfur content and low paraffin content. In the Arctic Novoportovskoye fields (YaNAO), the oil grade is called Novy Port, it belongs to the category of light with low sulfur content (about
]. Moreover, it seems archaic to foresee a future with hydrocarbons as a source of energy for transport, when they should be reserved for more noble uses (chemical processing industry) and when there are so many less polluting and less dangerous sources of energy.
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set the societal objective of reducing CO
emissions for all maritime transport international by at least 40% by 2030, and by 70% by 2050, compared to 2008; and GHG (GreenHouse Gas) emissions by at least 50% by 2050 [46
]. The heavy fuel oil used for maritime transport includes a large proportion of viscous residues, metal and sulfur. It is obtained at the end of refining petroleum in different types of fuels and before bitumens. Burning it releases a lot of NOx and SOx (nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides). On average, according to figures from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [47
], GHG emissions related to maritime freight transport are between 10 and 40 g CO
eq/T.km. One gram of CO
eq) corresponds to the mass of carbon dioxide product in a combustion, with the same global warming potential as any other greenhouse gas. Table 5
last row presents the quantity of CO
eq released on average per tonne of freight and per kilometer for the three types of vessels mentioned [48
]. If the 26 vessels of 20,000 tonnes were used to their maximum, for a route of 14,420 km (Table 4
) between Rotterdam and Shanghai, this would be 623,000 tonnes of CO
eq that would not be emitted each year. In fact, apart from construction, establishment and end of life, the sources of renewable energy production (wind and solar) do not emit CO
during their production period.
This first step in determining the relevance of developing an electric vessel fleet operating on the NSR should continue with more precise studies, including in particular the different speeds along the route as well as seasonal effects. Investment costs for on-board batteries should gradually decline as the technology sector matures. In addition, research on improving energy density by mass and volume will lead to a reduction in the size and volume of electrical energy storage systems and therefore to a reduction in investment costs. To achieve the objectives of the IMO, other solutions than the electrification of ships are being studied, such as the use of Liquid Natural Gas [49
]. As the wind and solar power sector matures, unit costs will decrease. For its part, over long periods, the price of hydrocarbons should not decrease. Thus, in a few years, the propulsion of ships by electric energy will cost less than the use of heavy fuel. It is therefore an opportune time to think about a change in technology.