Technical Director

Footprints – June 2022

Welcome to the June edition of Footprints where we report on some of the most interesting stories happening in the global energy and sustainability market!

Another quarter as your guest editor! I’m excited to bring our readers three new incredible stories from the world of sustainability. In this issue, we’ll talk about how Ulstein has built a sustainable floating charging station, how Equinix has proposed using data centre waste to warm a district heating system and how the latest EU vote is crucial to securing the green-steel transition in Europe and maintaining climate targets.

Sound interesting? Read more about the articles below!

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Floating Multi-Purpose Nuclear Power Station Set to Revolutionise the Maritime Industry

Norway-based company Ulstein has made the vision of zero-emission maritime operations a reality with its answer coming in the shape of a nuclear-powered vessel called ‘THOR’.

THOR acts as a completely mobile, roaming charging station that can be used to recharge battery-driven ships at sea. It’s powered by an MSR (Molten Salt Reactor) that dissolves Thorium, a naturally occurring abundant metal with low radioactivity, in liquid salt to provide clean, safe electricity.

Ulstein believe this may be the missing piece of the puzzle in solving a broad range of maritime and ocean sustainability issues. To demonstrate the station’s capabilities and feasibility, the company has also developed the SIF, a zero-emission expedition cruise ship, which runs on next-generation batteries.

CEO of Ulstein, Catherine Kristiseter-Marti has called it ‘essentially a floating, multi-purpose power station that will enable a new battery revolution’ bringing sustainability to a high-emission industry.

District Heating System Set to Repurpose Data Centre Waste Heat

The Irish Data Centre sector is facing pushback due to its rapid growth rate that challenges the country’s infrastructure and renewable energy strategy. In a report from The Irish Times, the sector uses 14% of Ireland’s entire electricity supply and its demands grew by one-third last year alone!

One possible way to soften the impact of data centres is if the heat they generate (along with other industries) is repurposed to provide heating to local homes and businesses via a District Heating System. This idea could potentially help the country ease its dependence on fossil fuels by decarbonising heating.

Equinix is the latest to back this idea in starting to plan a feasibility study to be carried out by the Dublin energy agency Codema. Between them, they hope to set up a district heating system that would involve laying insulated underground pipes from an Equinix Data Centre to nearby properties, including a hospital, university and local aquatics centre.

The one thing stopping the idea from catching on worldwide is that it’s not a light investment – the data centre industry has been slow in supporting the idea as it requires costly infrastructure, alongside the fact that air-cooled data centres produce relatively low-temperature heat and are often not situated close to consumers.

That being said, district heating is now included (as an ambition) in initiatives like the European Data Centre industry’s Carbon Neutral Data Center Pact, and efforts have been made to make the idea more commercial, popular, and easier to build.

Latest EU Parliament Vote Crucial to Securing the Green Steel Transition

The state of the EU’s climate transition following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia has assumed a more urgent geopolitical aspect with its short to medium term implementation for EU industry is more challenging than ever.

Skyrocketing energy prices, high inflation, soaring carbon prices, and raw materials shortages are already taking a toll on the economy and society at large, with the steel industry being no exception.

The future of the industry, which has been on its way to carbon neutrality, has been put at risk by the upcoming plenary vote of Europe’s ETS (Emissions Trading System) and CBAM (Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism). The vote, as quoted by Axel Eggert, Director General at the European Steel Association will be ‘the last chance’ to save the transition to green steel from derailing, securing 2030 climate targets and  preserving 30,000 jobs.

The production of green steel, made in an electrical arc furnace powered by low-carbon energy sources and recycled scrap steel, results in a dramatic lowering (around two-thirds less) in the amount of carbon dioxide generated when compared to conventional blast furnaces.

The problems that arise with ‘green steel’ is that there are still uncertainties in the pace of adoption due to its worldwide availability of it being limited due to high demand and even higher production costs.

It is essential that the ETS and the CBAM deliver on the agreed 2030 climate targets whilst supporting investments, preserving effective carbon leakage measures, and avoiding disproportionate costs, capacity closures, and job losses.

G – Greenwashing

To falsely promote the perception that a building or organisation is environmentally friendly.

T – Thermal Imaging

The use of infrared technology to detect variations in temperature. Initially deployed in surveillance, the technology has proven useful in the construction industry in identifying heat loss in buildings.

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