Feadship has completed its first – and possibly the industry's first – sea trial using gas-to-liquid (GTL) synthetic diesel on board Kiss. Developed by Shell, the benefits of this alternative fuel have been known since the 1980s but it wasn’t until 1993 that the first commercial GTL plant was established, and at that time the substance was still not commercially viable.

The Fischer-Tropsch process from which GTL is produced has been around since the 1920s. The Fischer-Topsch process uses the partial oxidation of methane (CH4) to produce carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), hydrogen (H or H2) and water vapour (H2O). The combination of CO and H2O forms further CO2 and H2 in a process known as the ‘water-gas shift reaction’, thus altering the ratio of CO to H – excess CO2 is removed using a liquid solution (although there is some residue). What remains is an intermediary substance known as synthesis gas (syngas).

Syngas is what is known as a ‘fuel gas’ and is the core substance from which all different forms of GTL are synthesised. The processes that go into the creation of syngas (as described above) remove many of the contaminants that are negatively associated with typical diesel or petrol consumption, such as the removal of CO2 and the avoidance of sulphur.


Kiss.

Having followed the refinement of GTL’s production and the opening of Shell's Pearl GTL plant in Qatar, Feadship launched a research & development project on board recently launched Kiss, benefitting frpm the exclusive availability of GTL in the Netherlands.

The analysis of the sea trial displayed a 30 per cent reduction in soot and unburnt fuel levels and around a 10 per cent reduction in NOx and CO2 emissions. It is hoped that these reductions in environmental costs will offset the increase in monetary cost (about 10 per cent) once GTL becomes widely available.

Beyond emissions and the green initiative, GTL has also proven to be incredibly practical. GTL can be used in current fuel systems without any changes needing to be made. What’s more, the lack of soot and unburnt fuel has the potential to save on maintenance because the systems remain far cleaner when using GTL.

“It has been obvious for some time that the industry needs to look at ways of becoming more efficient", explained Kiss’ captain, Oliver Varley. "As we develop more and more systems to meet this need, the fuel we use to run our vessels should evolve at the same rate. All owners wish to use their yachts in a clean environment, and yards and crew have a responsibility to minimise any negative effects vessels have on their surroundings. We commend Feadship for its forward thinking and are happy to have our vessel be a part of it.”

For a prolonged period industry discourse on clean energy has led to little more than lip service. But it is clear that, at some point in the future, current systems will become compromised by sustainable, clean energy. However, this is not yet a reality. Feadship has provided - using science from the 1920s – a legitimate and practical intermediary between the fossil and green ages. Cleaner, but not clean energy – for now.

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