Bringing the Ocean to Society
9 Mar 2021
Ifremer and the start-up Blue Fins invent "nageoires de baleines" to reduce the energy consumption of large ships by up to 30%
LNG carriers, tankers, container ships, cruise ships ... These sea giants are increasingly equipping themselves with new attributes to limit their fuel consumption.

A new solution developed by the start-up Blue Fins and Ifremer, EurOcean's member, should appear on the market by 2023: a foil that uses the energy of the waves to help propel ships.

Placed at the rear of the ships, a hydrofoil attached to a large articulated arm is animated by the waves. The greater this movement, the more energy it generates for the ship to move forward. The result: savings of 20% to 30% in fuel consumption.

"To help propel the ship, our system reproduces and combines two physical phenomena: the foils are like submerged airplane wings that support the ship and reduce the friction of the vessels' hull on the water. Their movement, generated by the swell, moves the ship forward a bit like the tail of a whale" explains Olivier Giusti, naval architect at the head of the young start-up Blue Fins.

A new solution in the race to save fossil fuels

This innovative system has two advantages: it is retractable and can be taken out of the water if the swell conditions are not optimal (absence or too many waves); installed at the rear of the ship, it can also supplement the energy savings that a kite wing or sails located on the deck would offer without presenting any risk to the ship.

A sizeable asset that allows the start-up Blue Fins to position itself in a buoyant market. Reducing the consumption of heavy fuel oil in the maritime transport sector, the most polluting fuel in the world, is a current challenge. According to a study by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on greenhouse gases (GHG), maritime transport emissions, which are currently responsible for 2.5% to 3% of global GHG emissions, could, in a business-as-usual scenario, increase by 50-250% by 2050.

Ifremer, a driver of innovation for the energy transition

"Even if you think you have the best idea possible, it is essential to surround yourself with the right people when you are alone to achieve a first fundable and funded project," warns Olivier Gusti.

Arrived at Ifremer with an idea in mind already proven on digital models, Olivier Giusti joined the team of the Behavior of structures at sea laboratory (member of the Carnot Mers Institute) at Ifremer for 18 months between 2018 and 2019 to mature his start-up project. He was able to develop his technology with specialists such as Marc Le Boulluec and Dominique Le Roux, and test it in the basin.
"We also helped Olivier target a strong market for which he could convince funders to support the development of his project," explains Romain Charraudeau, responsible for the partnership and transfer for innovation department at Ifremer. The choice to focus its innovation on the ship propulsion market has led it to improve the performance of its system in this direction with the help of our scientific teams ".

The patent filed and held by Ifremer is the result of the success of this teamwork.

The Bluefins project caught the attention of a leading company in the energy sector and sponsor of Citeph (Concertation for technological innovation in the fields of energy), a program to accelerate innovation in the field of energy. energies. Funding from Ifremer and Citeph will enable Bluefins to maintain sustained R&D activity. At the end of 2022, the performance of a 1 / 35th scale model should be validated in the Ifremer basin, then a first 1/2-scale prototype should be tested at sea from the end of 2023 on a merchant ship.

Article Figure: The size of the foil (in green) is adapted to that of the ship: it can reach 25 m long and 10 m wide for a 300 m vessel.© Blue Fins