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Arise, bioship

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Sci-fi nerds: if you were disappointed by artificial intelligence turning out to just produce an extremely gullible factoid enthusiast, we have good news.

H/t Malcolm Moore:

Leading Japanese companies, NYK Line (NYK), NYK Bulk & Projects Carriers (NBP), TSUNEISHI SHIPBUILDING Co., Ltd. (“TSUNEISHI SHIPBUILDING”) and British renewable energy business, Drax Group (Drax), have signed a new memorandum of understanding (MoU) to develop both the world’s first biomass-fuelled ship (bioship) and the technology that could power it.

Humanity shall have a bioship! Hive Fleet Behemoth, eat your heart out.

So what are we looking at? A harvester of oceans that will ingest fish by the thousands to feed the daemon spirit within its engine? A tame megafauna roughly like the cat bus from My Neighbour Totoro?

Oh wait, sorry, you said Drax was involved? Press release cont.:

Biomass is playing a growing role in Japan’s transition from fossil fuel power generation to low carbon and renewable electricity, and the country’s demand for biomass pellets, sourced primarily from North America and composed of sawmill and forestry residues, is increasing.

Drax produces biomass pellets in both the US South and Canada. The company has a longstanding relationship with NBP which transports its pellets to Japan.

These pellets are currently shipped through smaller handysize bulkers, which, due to the limited size of their fuel tanks, have proved challenging to switch to lower emission fuels, such as ammonia.  

Through the MoU, which was signed at the British Embassy in Tokyo, the companies will initially conduct research to develop the new shipping technology, an on-board biomass fuel plant, which would be required to power a bioship. The four companies are exploring how other renewable technologies could be used to reduce both the emissions and fuel costs of shipping biomass.

The biomass fuel plant would use a gasifier to combust biomass at high temperatures and create and contain gases including carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and methane. These gases would then be used to power a generator which could propel the bioship and also provide a proportion of its internal power.

That’s a whole lot of words to say you’re… making a ship powered by burning wood?

Maybe we’re too cynical. To be sure, wood gas is a proven technology that’s backed by two centuries of innovation. Install rates in the west have never recovered since the end of World War II fuel rationing but, at this rate, we’ll have caught up with North Korea in no time.

Further reading
— UK cannot prove sustainability of biomass power plants, warns watchdog (FT)
— The creative climate accounting of biomass (FT)
— Power in the Apocalypse (How to Build a Wood-Gasifier) (Instructables)

Read the full article here

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