Karpowership poised to strike first European deal for floating power supply [Gas in Transition]
Turkish company Karpowership has amassed a fleet of 36 powerships since entering the market for floating power generation in 2007. With a combined capacity of 6 GW, its vessels are currently providing electricity to countries in Africa, the Americas and Asia. And the company should soon make its first foray into the European market, after reaching a preliminary deal in January to provide war-torn Ukraine with emergency power, chief commercial officer Zeynep Harezi tells NGW.
Karpowership’s vessels not only provide a quick and flexible means of supporting a country’s energy security when they most need it, Harezi says, but there is also a clear environmental case for the use of floating power plants, especially when they are running on natural gas.
A fast and flexible fix
The term “powership” is one that Karpowership coined for its vessels, the capacities of which range between 80 and 500 MW. They serve as self-contained power plants, comprising mostly high-efficiency, combined-cycle turbines that are dual fuel – LNG and fuel oil/diesel – as well as onboard substations, fuel storage, electrical control rooms, worker accommodation and everything else needed to produce power. All that is needed is to hook them up to a country’s grid. Their equipment is typically all built by European manufacturers.
The key advantages that powerships offer are fuel flexibility – they can run on whichever fuel makes the most economical sense at the time – and the speed at which they can be connected to a country’s network. The connection process can take as little as 30 days, according to Harezi.
‘These vessels are fully contained and ready to operate – they are plug-and-play power solutions,” she says.
Karpowership’s customers typically are those struggling with higher than anticipated demand and need a quick fix to balance their grids. Or, as in the case of the French territory of New Caledonia, in the Pacific, or the Indonesian archipelago, the vessels are used to provide power to islands where it would be difficult to develop onshore power generation infrastructure.
The powerships are also an ideal option for emergency electricity needs, Harezi says, which is where Europe, facing its worst energy crisis in decades, comes in. Karpowership has held discussions with a number of European countries on providing its vessels, including France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the UK, and some east European states.
But it is with Ukraine that Karpowership is set to reach its first European agreement on power supply. The company signed a memorandum of understanding on January 26 with state-owned trader Energy Company of Ukraine (ECU), which has been tasked by Kyiv to help shore up national energy supply. Russia has launched a series of rocket attacks against Ukrainian energy infrastructure over recent months, resulting in rolling blackouts and heating shortages across much of the country.
“While the war continues, building new power units to recover lost or damaged generation capacity is not a feasible option and we need to look for innovative solutions to the current crisis,” ECU CEO Vitaly Butenko said when the deal was announced.
Within two to three months, Karpowership aims to deploy a 200-MW powership to the Moldovan port of Giurgiulesti, in order to supply power to neighbouring Ukraine. The company is in discussions with the transmission system operators of Moldova and Ukraine to align the technical connection requirements needed to transmit electricity from one country to the other. Once this is done, the company hopes to have a final agreement with ECU on offtake in the next couple of weeks.
“Our powership is the ideal solution for Ukraine because we can operate it for a short period of time – three to five years – until Ukraine’s reconstruction is complete,” Harezi says.
After deploying a powership in Moldova, Karpowership hopes at a later stage to replicate the project’s success in other countries in the region such as Romania, she says.
The environmental case
The fuel flexibility of Karpowership’s vessels means customers can opt for whichever fuel is cheaper, although the company has over time been promoting the greater use of natural gas, because of its smaller emissions footprint.
As part of this strategy, it has its own five floating storage and regasification units (FSRUs). One of the vessels is currently operating in Brazil and another in Senegal. Two more are chartered to third parties, while the fifth is available for use.
These FSRUs were custom-built to service Karpowership’s floating power stations in terms of capacity.
“They have a very economical price, because we built them especially for smaller-scale LNG-to-power generation, for our powerships,” Harezi says. “We can operate these FSRUs in a very feasible manner, whereby the FSRU cost in the total electricity cost will be minimal.”
Deploying a powership running on natural gas in a country that would otherwise have used coal as a source of baseload power supply halves emissions, she explains. But regardless of which fuel is used onboard, there are other environmental gains to be made versus on-land power solutions, she notes. There are various environmental effects associated with the construction of an onshore plant, such as the cutting down of trees, the levelling of ground and the need to truck in needed materials. Building a powership on the other hand takes place in the controlled environment of a shipyard. There is also no onsite decommissioning work needed.
The company’s powerships also operate without creating any water pollution or altering the temperature of the water, according to Harezi. Marine life is unaffected, she says, citing the case of a powership previously operating in a fishing harbour in Ghana, where fish continued to breed in the vessel’s vicinity. Karpowership complies with local environmental regulation wherever it operates, including under the stringent rules in New Caledonia. There, it installed all necessary de-NOX and de-SOX systems and dust filters.
Looking ahead, Karpowership plans to significantly expand its fleet of powerships, aiming to increase its generation capacity from 6 GW at present to 10 GW within three to five years.