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Energy / Funding awarded to project to map out greener future for isles’ maritime industry

The council ferry Linga. Photo: Shetland News

A NEW £500,000 project to support the transition to zero-carbon fuels for Shetland’s maritime industry has received support from the UK Government.

The NEPTUNE project will develop a “desk-based decision modelling and support system tool” that will help to analyse, scope and develop plans for supporting the transition.

It is funded by the Department for Transport and will be delivered in partnership with Innovate UK.

NEPTUNE – perhaps a reference to the Roman god of water and sea of the same name – is being led by the University of Strathclyde in partnership with Shetland Islands Council, Ricardo UK and Babcock International, and it aligns with the existing ORION energy project.

The first phase of the project will involve gathering data on the types of marine vessels operating from Shetland and their unique characteristics to create accurate ‘digital twin models’ – or virtual representations – of them and their supporting onshore infrastructure.

Researchers will then determine which zero-carbon technologies the different vessels could switch to and input the twin models into a digital dashboard which will monitor the flow of renewable fuels from ‘well to wake’.

The Shetland maritime industry’s ‘well to wake’ carbon dioxide emissions currently totals around 300,000 tonnes per year – more than the Sullom Voe Terminal and the Shetland Gas Plant together.

The results of the study will help researchers to assess the impact of zero-carbon fuel supply in terms of storage space needed, the annual amount of renewable electricity required and the other factors, such as land and water, required to match the digital model.

Strathclyde’s professor Evangelos Boulougouris said: “The ambitions for transition to a net-zero economy creates different challenges across the UK.

“The Shetland Islands has a unique maritime ecosystem and requires significant investment to reach net-zero status.

“The modelling for this project needs to be highly-accurate to capture the requirements for a large and diverse fleet of vessels and their unique operating characteristics, and this will be a particularly innovative aspect to this project.

“The model will help to reduce the cost of planning and implementing a zero-carbon energy system for Shetland and could be used for other islands or ports too.”

Shetland Islands Council leader Steven Coutts added: “The NEPTUNE project will help to facilitate the transformation of Shetland’s current dependency on fossil fuels to affordable, renewable energy for both marine vessels and the associated support infrastructure, industries and communities.”

The scheme ties in with the ORION project, which was set up in April last year with the aim of turning Shetland into an “international clean energy hub”.

Strathclyde is also a partner in ORION, which aims to harness onshore and offshore wind energy to power oil and gas platforms, homes and businesses, and produce green hydrogen at scale, replacing fossil fuels by providing affordable renewable energy.

The project also endeavours to power port facilities, including Sullom Voe, by wind energy and hopes to redevelop those port facilities to support the offshore wind sector and for the export of green hydrogen to the UK mainland and Europe.

Shetland Islands Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Net Zero Technology Centre are also involved in ORION.