With the next round of Fisheries and Seafood Scheme (FaSS) funding anticipated to be available soon, English fishermen will have the opportunity to use this support to help install pioneering new technology which works with their engine system to increase fuel efficiency and reduce running costs.

Almost 30 UK fishing vessels are now utilising the EcoPro Electrolyser from Ecomotus, a Devon-based company founded by Jason and Kirstyn Munro. The new technology has the potential to play a key role in helping the seafood sector meet net zero carbon emission targets, helping ensure a sustainable future for the industry.

The EcoPro Electrolyser is a stand-alone catalytic system to improve fuel combustion in all types of internal combustion engines. It is a RINA type approved and Maritime and Coastguard Agency accepted system that complies with regulatory standards, and which establishes Ecomotus as a pioneer in the use of hydrogen for marine applications.

The UK is committed to reaching net zero by 2050, with the fishing industry having an important part to play in the process, with climate change being one of the biggest challenges facing the seafood sector.

Adrian Bartlett, retired crabber and Head of Marine Operations at Ecomotus, told Fish Focus:

“It is a great system, and a practical and cost-effective way of reducing harmful emissions. With FaSS funding soon to be available once more for English fishermen, this is a good time for fishermen to consider the considerable benefits of the EcoPro Electrolyser.”

FaSS can provide funding support of up to 80% of the total cost (going by previous years), depending on vessel size and turnover. Unfortunately, equivalent funding support is not yet available in Scotland or Wales, although Adrian Bartlett hopes this might change if the industry pressurises for change.

The EcoPro Electrolyser enriches the air flow into the engine combustion chamber by adding a precise amount of hydrogen so fuel combustion is optimised and the production of diesel particulates reduced.

When the engine is running, the EcoPro’s inbuilt Eco-i electronic system calculates the exact amount of hydrogen required for optimum fuel combustion. The system operates at atmospheric pressure without the need for hydrogen storage, as this is produced on demand from the electrolysis of deionised water.  The electrolysis process breaks water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen.

The hydrogen enriches the air flow fed directly into the engine combustion chamber, whilst the oxygen by-product is vented to the atmosphere. This ensures the immediate utilisation of hydrogen in the combustion process without any potential risks associated with its storage in gaseous or liquid form.

Information is sent back to the Ecomotus head office for monitoring and operational adjustment with the software continuously updated to enhance efficiency.

A dashboard link enables vessel owners to see how their engine is operating, whether they are onboard or ashore.   Other emission reducing solutions combust fuel as normal, and then clean up the combustion gases before release into the atmosphere.  The EcoPro system needs minimal servicing, with simple daily checks on the deionised water levels.

Once commissioned, it immediately starts cleaning carbon deposits inside the engine. Ongoing use maintains this process, reducing wear on engine components, and therefore reducing engine maintenance frequency, including engine oil changes.

The Crystal Sea, a 24.5-metre twin-rig trawler skippered by brothers David and Alec Stevens, installed the EcoPro electrolyser in December 2022. The 490-kilowatt vessel operates out of Newlyn Harbour and targets multiple species including flatfish and monkfish.

The number of electrolyser cells, and therefore the cost of installation, depends on the size of the vessel engine. The Crystal Sea’s EcoPro system had an initial cost of £22,000, but thanks to the FaSS funding available for sustainable and resilient technologies, the total expense to the business was £11,000.

David Stevens said that while there are several options on the market that can clean exhaust fumes, the EcoPro was the only option he was aware of that reduced emissions and fuel use. With fuel being one of the biggest running costs of a fishing vessel, the economic and environmental benefits of installing the technology are clear.

“We use around 8% less fuel, saving somewhere between 500 and 1,000 litres a week,” added David. “With the fuel price currently at £0.80/litre, we save a good £400-800 every week.”

This means the Crystal Sea is reducing her carbon footprint by an estimated 1.3 to 2.6 tons CO2 each week she goes to sea.

David added: “Say we save £500 a week; it’s going to take 22 weeks to pay back. We should see our money back within a year. The EcoPro lessens maintenance as the oil doesn’t get anywhere near as dirty as it used to and we could probably go double the operating time between oil changes if we wanted to.”

The Emma Jane, is an 18-metre super crabber owned by family business Favis of Salcombe, based in Devon.   This 317-kilowatt vessel was the first fishing vessel to have the EcoPro electrolyser installed four years ago, costing the business around £8,500 with 50% FaSS funding.

The recent inspection report on the Caterpillar engine of the Emma Jane by independent company Revolution Marine Engineering Ltd, disclosed that the oil samples, charge air cooler, valve gear, and cylinders of the vessel were remarkably clean.   Minimal carbon build-up was observed despite the total hours run.

The inspection report added: “It is plausible that reduction in total diesel burnt by the introduction of hydrogen dosing has created a cleaner burn over the engine’s lifespan and has not induced any evident risk for early failure.”

Kevin Favis of the Emma Jane said: “Bringing emissions down and keeping the air clean is the main reason for having the technology, but you get fuel savings as well.”

January 2024