Japan’s PowerX details battery tanker scheme

Japanese power transfer vessel developer PowerX has unveiled the detailed design of the first-ever ‘battery tanker’ set for domestic and international field testing in 2026.

The company’s first electric propulsion vessel, called ‘Battery Tanker X’, boasts a length of 140 m and will be equipped with 96 containerised marine batteries, providing a total capacity of 241MWh. Imabari Shipbuilding will deliver the first prototype in 2025.

The ship’s onboard battery system is based on PowerX’s proprietary module design, featuring lithium iron phosphate (LFP) battery cells that ensure a lifespan over 6,000 cycles. The company said the system can also be scaled to accommodate even larger electric transport vessels in the future.

The system includes dedicated gas emission control and fire suppression mechanisms as well as real-time monitoring of the battery system, charging controllers, and power conversion systems. All batteries will be manufactured in-house at PowerX’s facility in Okayama Prefecture for deliveries starting by mid-2024.

The company sees the ship as an optimal solution for short-distance maritime power transmission from land to land, complementing existing inter-regional grid transmission lines. 

“For instance, in Japan, a battery tanker can carry power from regions with high renewable energy supply potential, such as Kyushu and Hokkaido, to high-demand areas of Honshu or for inter-island power transmission,” the company explained.

PowerX said it plans to establish a new company called Ocean Power Grid in the third quarter of 2023 to own, sell and operate the battery tankers both in Japan and abroad. The company is actively seeking business partners for this new technology and has recently signed a memorandum of understanding and a partnership agreement with Kyushu Electric Power and the City of Yokohama to pursue the novel concept of maritime power transmission and achieving carbon-neutral ports.

The long-term vision for these ships, as the energy density of batteries improves and their cost decreases, is to accommodate longer-distance maritime transmission from offshore wind farms to land.

“The ship-based solution resolves issues such as long downtime from undersea cable malfunctions and repairs, as well as the high costs associated with ultra-high voltage connections and substations. As a result, the battery tankers will enable installation of offshore wind farms in areas where undersea cable deployment was once challenging,” PowerX noted.

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