Advancing technologies for Arctic seas

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Arctic areas have recently got significant attention for economic and political reasons. The interest and presence by multiple nations has increased operations in Arctic area. This has raised concerns to preserve the Arctic environment with good reason. Challenges with sulphur emissions, energy efficient infrastructure and propulsion noise are just few examples of challenges which require reliable and speedy solutions. Arctic means an area but also certain conditions. Among Finns, the coldness, darkness, ice and snow are well known, but a majority of the world’s population is surprised to face darkness and cold climate conditions of the north. When designing for Arctic it gives you great advantage to be the next door neighbour.

Arctic presents requirements for vessel autonomy and infrastructure

One of the Arctic research activities of the future is infrastructure to be built in Arctic areas. The infrastructure should be designed in a way that is energy efficient, sustainable and able to utilise renewable energy sources as well.  For the energy production, other than burning-process-based energy sources are preferred as burning processes may produce soot or black carbon on Arctic areas and thus accelerate the snow and ice melt. The challenge lies in designing the burning processes as clean as possible as they cannot be totally avoided.

Snow and ice loads on the structures and buildings are significant design aspects when designing for Arctic, particularly near shoreline and offshore. For example, moving ice field can exert forces on wind turbine foundation. Estimating the ice loads correctly saves you either from a structural failure or buying thousands of tons extra concrete.

Arctic efficiency and sustainability must be tackled from multiple angles: single components have to be well-designed, overall system must work correctly and the situation awareness has to be sufficient to operate in an efficient manner. Situation awareness and automation are research areas to guarantee safety margin and enable automated operations. New technology is required to make ships autonomous, carry out rescue operations or even recover oil.

Pollution of all types 

Emission control changes marine traffic business environment. Starting from 2015, Sulphur Emission Control Areas came in force in Baltic Sea. Even being energy efficient does not directly solve the problem of emitting Sulphur; it helps a lot if expensive low-Sulphur fuel is consumed less. Emission control will turn research and development focus not only burning and exhaust gas control, but also on energy efficiency. If you become more efficient, you will emit less. How to design an efficient powertrain and energy system for future vessels?

If ratified fully, the Polar code will restrict several types of emissions when operating in Arctic areas. It is notable that such emissions as propulsion noise can also be considered a regulated emission. This would require the future vessels to be much more silent.

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The different arctic challenges VTT’s research scientists are finding solutions for in the Arctic Research programme.  

Solutions through Arctic Research programme

On the bottom line, operating at the Arctic raises several technological challenges. What can we benefit from solving these challenges and what is the meaning  to Finland? We strongly believe it brings better life in Arctic areas and multiple opportunities to Finnish economy.

VTT has a significant role in Arctic Research in Finland and in several projects launched within the framework of TEKES Arctic Seas research programme. We will publish a series of blog posts to briefly describe the different challenges Arctic areas are facing and how we can find solutions to them in the Arctic Seas programme. We wanted to open this discussion with a general approach by presenting the key challenges and a bold promise: VTT, with its’ partners from academia and industry, have a solution to offer for each challenge.

Kari Tammi

Research Professor

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