96: A Return to the High Seas - Wind Power Ships
Matt and Sean talk about potential wind power transport for cargo on the high seas.
Hey everybody welcome to the still to be determined podcast. This is the podcast that follows up on topics from the Youtube channel undecided with Matt ferrell I'm sean ferrell I'm Matt's older brother I'll be asking him the questions with me as Matt say hi Matt.
Before we get into the episode just a reminder there are ways you can support the podcast you can go to still tbd dot fm. There's a link there from that link you're able to throw coins at us. You can also just listen. Can subscribe you can share us with your friends all of that really does help the podcast. We appreciate any kind of support and Matt where you are back after a week long break. How are you? We took an unexpected hiatus which I think.
I'm doing pretty well.
Worked out in another way considering it fell across the Holiday here in the us thanksgiving last week would have made recording difficult in any event. But as regular listeners or should I say viewers on youtube will recognize.
Where Sean yeah.
You cannot see my face where is sean our podcast listeners who are listening on spotify or itunes or other places where they get their podcasts are saying these 2 have faces. We do as a matter of fact, although mine is under repair I had to have some minor surgery. And as a result I look a little bit like the Phantom of the opera so rather than do this episode in song while lurking in the rafters of an opera house I decided to just forego the camera this week I should be back hopefully next week ah
Yes, that would be that'd be awesome.
Possibly with some grotesque scarring. We'll find out. It'll be fun today's episode we're gonna be talking about Matt's most recent episode which was why wind power ships. Maybe the future of transportation. This episode. Dropped on november twenty third Twenty Twenty one and Matt this is a a kind of a return to some subjects, you've talked about before you've talked about wind power land based wind power before you've also talked about shipping before and. I think this may be the first time that I've referred to previous episodes where I've actually referred to episodes that exist as opposed to other times where I'm like I'm pretty sure you talked about this and you're like no I've never talked about that. This was interesting. It's it struck up a lot of. Tangential conversations in the comments that I thought were really kind of fascinating um some of it was as simple as there was a conversation around anchors I I thought that was terrific. Um, you have in your video reference to idling.
Cargo ships and the amount of Fossil fuel that is spent burning just as a ship is waiting for its turn in line at say the suez canal or something like that and there was a comment from somebody saying just to point out that this kind of. Burning is not the full engine that they they run a type of generator during the idling process. Obviously the ship is not doing that for I cannot imagine a ship captain saying like oh we're hurting the environment turn off the engine. It's cost Saving. It's like let's not burn this fuel. We're not supposed to be just burning Fuel. So we're going to lower our usage to this generator instead of the full ship. It makes sense I understand all of that. But what it spurred in the comments was then a conversation around.
It's cost savings.
Well, they use these generators. They don't use their full engine and somebody then showed up and said well what about anchors and then it started this whole interesting conversation around anchors and Anchor weight and how anchors on lordships work and they have to.. It's not an anchor like in a small ship where you're looking to literally hook into the mud at the bottom of the body of water you're looking to just create enough drag using chain links the giant chain links on the bottom then just weighing the ship down and I realized as I was.
Waiting through these comments a lot of your listeners or your viewers for whatever reason know a lot about ships and shipping. There's a lot. There was a lot a much higher percentage than I thought I would find.
That happens on a lot of my videos where it's like I'll see.. There's a comment threads of people that seem to know an incredible amount about whatever the topic is like no way more than any of the research we pulled together which doesn't surprise you too much but like there are people that. Like common Commenters I will see the same names on multiple videos and it's like they just know a lot about a lot.. It's just like I'm very impressed with the viewers on the channel. They're far smarter than I am.
Yeah, there was let me find it.
There was this from when to go willing to go sorry mispronounced your name didn't spot the L's where they should be who shared a lot about clipper ships and the speeds of clipperships. There was another commenter. Who shared some history of the clipper ships and how their maneuverability was really their advantage as opposed to the larger and slower vessels and that what really did them in was they were not able to go through the suez canal I Thought that was Fascinating. Um. Wrote as soon as the suez canal opened which the Cuttys sark was unable to sail through the cuttysark lost her advantage Raw speed to the steam powered ships of that era who could beat her time on passage by taking the shortcut mechanically powered ships have improved in terms of efficiency on a freight Ton mile basis. But at least 1 order of magnitude since then after losing out to the coal burning fire Tube Boiler steam reciprocating mechanical ships of the late nineteenth Century Cuttysark was relegated to the Australian Wool Trade just about the bottom of the barrel in maritime terms and only 1 small step up. From being a honey barge this yeah.
There's there's like an entire documentary series in some of the comments that were dropped there like that could be a fascinating watch and I just want to bring up. There's another youtube channel called 1 over productions that has been putting out videos over the past I don't know few months about shipping and cargo shipping. And how the supply chain works and why we're seeing what we're seeing happen with the supply chain catastrophe around shipping I would not expect a video about cargo shipping and the supply chain to be riveting television but it is and if you haven't watched it go to windover productions. And just look for his cargo shipping videos. There's like a few of them now they are so good and just really fascinating about how the whole industry works and how the industry discovered a counterintuitive thought there's a long standinging principle of you can't. If you go too slowly on these massive carriers. You'll actually damage the engines so they were burning extra fuel to kind of maintain a certain speed and 1 company was like you know what we're going to test that theory and they actually started going slower and discovered they used far less fuel and it didn't damage the engine so they saved. Millions of dollars a year just by making their ships go slower so like and then but you have to have more ships because ships are taking longer to make their cruises and so it's like you have to have more ships and then we have this pandemic issue happen with the supply chain and suddenly we have all these ships that are going super slow and have nowhere to go and nowhere to empty their stuff. It's it's ah.
Fascinating series I recommend checking it out.
Yeah, it seems to go hand in hand with I remember there was looking at the peak efficiency of cars at the efficiency of a car engine I think it was around 33 miles per hour was the peak efficiency and. For those people who are taking it up to ninety and trying to get to the destination Faster. They're actually burning more fuel because they're fighting against friction. There was this from information collection post 3 5 7 I have read on wind assisted ships in popular science since back in the nineteen eighty s the idea isn't new, theoretically an mhd as a Magneto hydrodynamics effect using Salt water as the working fluid could dramatically increase a ship's speed and efficiency. And could use green electricity or nuclear-generated electricity from batteries in the future. Yes, using the wind to help sounds as a doable and practical practical idea. The problem is that most business people want a payback period of 3 to 4 years if they can't meet this payback period. Investing in stock or real estate will produce a greater return than adding wings or rotors to the ships and I noticed in your video you were talking about a payback period that was closer to 6 to 8 years for most of these technologies you've talked in in other videos about.
Home ownership and payback periods for individuals who put solar on their home or invest in other types of energy saving periods of 10 years probably aren't too unusual for home ownership. But the idea of corporations looking for a payback period of 3 to 4 years but the industry looking at 6 to 8 was there anything that you saw that looked like there was an opportunity to meet in the middle was there. Another technology that offered a better window.
No, but the 1 thing is like that the estimates that are available today that say 6 to 8 years ah that's based on the current costs and the projection of the cost. So it all boils down to. Will they be able to drop the production costs the installation fees of installing these into ships to a point where the cost comes down which shortens that return on investment window. That's 1 factor and the other factor I would want to bring up that's different today than there was over the past 60 years where this stuff has been being talked about is today. There is. Ah, drive to get away from fossil fuels as much as possible and in some areas there's laws that are regulating how much pollution you're allowed to put out and there's going to be a forced transition in certain industries and so there's this pressure that wasn't there before to get off of fossil fuels and reduce your fuel use reduce your. Carbon output. There might be carbon taxes involved and things like that. So. It's like there are there's an extra pressure that companies are feeling today to to explore these technologies today where in the past they may have been like ah it's not good enough for the return investment. So. It's not quick enough or today I think there's a little bit more of a.
Palable ah aspect to it where they're like okay we're looking at this again which is why you're seeing companies that are actually investing in this and biofuels and other technologies because not only do they see a path to save a little bit of money but also to get ahead of where.
Yeah, there's the carrot in the stick and the saving of money is a carrot and some of the cost savings that you laid out in your video are dumbfounding as far as the millions of dollars that these companies would save even if if if.
Regulations are probably going to end up.
Ah, ship is saving only 10 to fifteen percent on its fuel during a year that's an enormous amount of money that's an enormous amount of fuel and it's definitely something that would have a positive impact environmentally? Um, but before getting into my final question which was about.
A comment which introduced something you didn't talk about in your video I wanted to for myself dive a little deeper into my questions around Ammonia Ammonia powered vessels What exactly are we talking about when we say.
There's ammonia in the fuel.
You're getting into an area where I'm still learning myself but 1 thing to know about Ammonia is when you're talking about ah like Hydrogen fuel which hot debate if that's if if it's going to go anywhere or not but Hydrogen's very difficult to transport.
I'd just like to pause there for a moment and and say to our listeners. We should all stand for a moment and applaud at Matt's ability to have a double pun dad joke. They're very rare in the wild but you just.
Ah, for you spotted 1
You managed to say that Hydrogen might not be going anywhere and what's fueling the conversation it was it was masterful. It was really just like Boom boom.
It's a master. It's masterclass in funds.
It was like watching it was like watching Ali and is at his height. He was just yeah, you were It was the left was coming in as the right was already cocked and ready to go. It was I couldn't even I'm gonna have to take a breath for a moment ladies and gentlemen. Okay. So you were saying.
Transporting hydrogen is difficult and 1 of the ways. Transport hydrogen is you actually can you can you can make hydrogen out of Ammonia so 1 of the things is that you can transport Ammonia which is very safe and easier to do and then you can create hydrogen out of it when it gets to its destination. Um, the actual engines that you. Use ammonia without having to split it into Hydrogen that's an area where I'm still learning myself so it's like I can't speak to it in depth yet that I've been reading into it because of the whole path towards bio I've been researching researching biofuels and. Fuel alternatives just like this because I'm thinking I'm doing a video on it because for me, there's still a giant question mark around all of this of like is that actually a better technology is that actually is it actually clean. Is. It actually cleaner is it more cost. Efficient There's so many questions I have around it. But. Everything I'm seeing so far is that biofuels and using things like whether it's methane hydrogen ammonia ah it is going to be necessary in our carbon reduction future because there's a lot of technologies a lot of like massive ships airplanes things like that that you can't use batteries for. At least yet we don't have the energy storage capacity to be able to do it in a very lightweight form so we're going to still need to burn things for things like ships. So. It's just a matter of what it what? What are those technologies and what do they look like and in this video I just basically scratch the surface of that.
So I still need to do a deeper dive on it.
So is 1 of the key driving factors. The fact that Hydrogen storage safely in a vessel like this would be difficult is that what it 1 of the main.
It's not that it's difficult. It's like just imagine having a ship that size that's just carrying. It's just a giant hydrogen. It's like it's like that doesn't seem like a smart idea. Um, where you can transport Ammonia and it becomes It's very safe.
Covered with hydrogen.
Not not not that Ammonia is safe but it's a a lot safer than transporting hydrogen.
Yeah, yeah, if a yeah if there's an accident. You don't want I'd much rather a bunch of hydrogen be in the form of Ammonia and have a beached ship or ah, a ship strike something unexpectedly under the water as opposed to.
Just being raw hydrogen in containers which very obviously the results would be ah catastrophe that would be hard to to really imagine at this point I mean we'd think about the the accident that happened in beirut. Last year which leveled huge part of the city that was simply an accident. Um, it was and it it was a cargo ship that had been allowed to sit and fester and nobody was taken care of it and the the containers broke down to the point where the content. Created a an explosion so you can only imagine what if that ship was carrying tons upon tons of explosive gas.
I'd also want to put because obviously I have viewers that are really well into this kind of information and some of them actually work in these industries I'm putting a call out to like if you are in the industry of like the whole Ammonia hydrogen biofuel industry reach out to me go to undecided mf dot com. And hit me up with the contact form I'd I'd love to talk to you.
In that vein of looking into newer Technologies. There was this comment from Neil Blanchard who wrote there's another type of sail that is very interesting. It's an autonomous tethered Aircraft. It is essentially a powered kite that flies up to high altitude and then pulls the ship. Via the tether cable. This could also generate electricity to charge batteries to power electric motors when the aircraft are not possible to use the same technology as possible for generation of wind Power Mcconney is a company that was slash is developing this use and I wondered is this a.
Yes, it didn't make the cut. Um, this comment came up a lot I Saw a lot of people bringing up the whole kite thing and I probably should have touched on it anyway. But we I decided not to touch on it in the video mainly because.
Technology that you had come across and it didn't make the cut for what reason.
All the information we could find on the company and the advancements and how the testing was going were years old and it was It's been kind of basically radio silent for several years and that made me wonder are they still in operation are they out of business is did the technology not work and they had to go back to the drawing board. Ah, couldn't find any really good information that could corroborate how they were doing where some of these other technologies. There was a lot of corroboration. A lot of activity over the past six months to a year it's like very recent stuff that you can point to where that company was just kind of like it was. It was a little too dormant. And it it raised too many questions so that's part of the reason I kind of stayed away from it but I probably should have brought it up just to acknowledge people were looking into this and I could have just mentioned what I just mentioned now which was but it's been quiet so we don't know how it's doing but ah yeah, that's why I didn't make the cut.
1 of the things you point out in your video is the size of these ships. Obviously this is not a surprise to anybody who's aware of how containers as large as an eighteen wheeler get transported across the ocean. Um, my question. There was a shot you mentioned of hounde which has their their end of their corporation that's looking into shipping size vehicles and they have a version which is running on Ammonia I like the fact that in the little model. It was a little model boat that said Ammonia on the side thought that was very cute. Little bit like the hess truck around christmas time here in the States um I wondered about the size of the various vehicles are there companies that are looking at introducing these technologies that are also looking at the size of the cargo ships themselves or. Like the ones that are the rotors are they largely looking at retrofitting existing ships.
Um, for the Ammonia ships. It's basically new stuff that I was seeing so it looks Likeundais looking at building Brand new ships that are designed for this purpose and they're massive and they want to make them as big as they possibly can for the other technologies like the rotors stuff. And the wing sales they're retrofit so they can go on any ship they can make them work on anything so it's it's 2 very different approaches and I'm not exactly sure if anybody knows I'm not exactly sure if we couldn't find out why that's the case like can't you retrofit or an existing ship to become ammonia. Um, you probably could. But Houndai's building them from scratch.
Yeah, that made me wonder if there's something about power to weight ratios that might potentially the Ammonia based propulsion isn't able to handle some of the size of some of the existing ships I couldn't help it wonder that and in that.
Or the storage with the way. The fuel is storage. Yeah yep.
Or the storage. Yeah yeah, it also made me think when you've got an ammonia based ship. It seems like it could potentially be a place where you would say Well let's also throw a rotor on here or a sail.
Seems like the mixing and matching of these new technologies would definitely be something that a company would want to take advantage of to really shave off as much expense as possible.
Yeah, that's what interested me most out of these technologies because you can retrofit it on pretty much any of these cargo ships. So you could have Ammonia or a biofuel ship and still have this to reduce how much of that fuel. You need to use so it seems like it ah a really kind of ah a win-win scenario of the price return on investment can hit that sweet spot that we talked about earlier.
It's interesting. It's all very once again, we're tiptoeing into what feels like sci-fi territory with all of this. It's the images of these ships that look their profile being different than what we're used to I.
Mentioned before to the listeners I live in New York city I work in Manhattan I live in Brooklyn and there was a period of time. Ah back in the in the olden days when we used to actually go into an office pre pandemicdemic. My office building was on the east side of manhattan.
And if you were looking out the window at the right time looking between a couple of our neighboring buildings. The East river was right there it was possible to see large cargo ships just coming in and out of the of the new york city region and. It's a profile you just get accustomed to it stops being surprising when you see a large ship of that size the profile of these ships would be different and they're almost harkening back to old steamship profiles. It almost looks like a smokestack atop the ship which is interesting and.
I'm curious from our listeners. The people who weighed into the comments and shared their expertise in sailing and their experiences and knowledge with all of this. How was this earned How did you? How do you know? I'm curious to find out from our listeners more about the listeners themselves. Are you all just out of your own curiosity andeligible in this or do we actually have some people who are involved in shipping if you were involved in shipping I'm sure Matt would actually be very interested in communicating with you or on some of these details.
Let us know you can scroll down beneath the video where you get to see Matt moving and still images of me. You can leave a comment directly there or if you're just listening on audio only via a podcast provider. Reach out through the contact information in the podcast description. Also don't forget you can visit still tbd dot fm did I get that right? Okay i.
You got that right.
Literally blanked out mentally as I said those words it's been a rough week for sean you'll see the support the podcast link there and from there you can throw coins at us please be careful not to hit my face I recently hit surgery. If you're watching us on youtube you can go to the membership Button. It's the join button below the video and you can provide direct support there if you're not able to do that. We still appreciate your listening. We appreciate your sharing us with your friends. We appreciate your leaving comments leaving likes. Subscribing all of that really does help please be sure to do those things. It really does help the podcast. The podcast helps the channel the channel helps Matthew and then Matthew reassures me that my face will be okay, we'll talk to you later everybody.
Join our newsletter
Stay up-to-date on new podcast episodes and YouTube videos.