Cargill is trying to make zero carbon shipping a reality

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Mitsubishi Corporation’s Pyxis Ocean, chartered by Cargill, is the first vessel to be retrofitted with two WindWings, which are large wing sails measuring up to 37,5 meters in height that can be fitted to the deck of cargo ships to harness the power of wind.
Mitsubishi Corporation’s Pyxis Ocean, chartered by Cargill, is the first vessel to be retrofitted with two WindWings, which are large wing sails measuring up to 37,5 meters in height that can be fitted to the deck of cargo ships to harness the power of wind.

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A collaboration between Cargill, BAR Technologies, Mitsubishi Corporation and Yara Marine Technologies has the potential to decarbonize cargo vessels by up to 30%.

Last month saw the agribusiness giant and those partners test a new wind sail technology on the Pyxis Ocean, a dry-bulk carrier enroute from China to Brazil. 

They are evaluating WindWings, which are two 123-foot-high (37.5 meters) rigid wind sails made of steel and composite glass that can reportedly cut the vessel’s fuel use by roughly a fifth. 

The WindWings have been outfitted on the Pyxis Ocean, a dry bulk carrier (the vessel is 751-feet-long - longer than two American football fields) charted by Cargill and owned by Mitsubishi Corporation. 

"A technology like WindWings doesn’t come without risk, and as an industry leader – in partnership with visionary shipowner Mitsubishi Corporation - we are not afraid to invest, take those risks and be transparent with our learnings to help our partners in maritime transition to a more sustainable future.” - Jan Dieleman, president of Cargill’s ocean transportation business.

Shipping transports 90% of world trade and accounts for 3% of global greenhouse (GHG) emissions, or about 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide a year. Each WindWing enables next level savings of 1.5 tons of fuel per day – which equates to 4.65 lower CO2 emissions per wing per day, claim the partners. 

The Pyxis Ocean is the first vessel to be retrofitted with the WindWings. The installation took place at the Cosco shipyard in China and the Pyxis Ocean set sail on her maiden voyage on August 21, in what was the first major test of the wind assisted propulsion technology. 

Cargill said it hopes to add the rigid sails to as many as 10 more vessels. It estimates that they could help cargo ships cut carbon emissions by up to 30% while saving a commensurate amount on fuel costs. 

The WindWings project is co-funded by the EU as part of the CHEK Horizon 2020 initiative.

Transformative tech 

The performance of the wings will be closely monitored over the coming months to further improve their design, operation, and performance, with the aim that the Pyxis Ocean will be used to inform the scale-up and adoption across not only Cargill’s fleet but the industry.

BAR Technologies and Yara Marine Technologies said they are already planning to build hundreds of wings over the next four years and BAR Technologies is also researching new builds with improved hydrodynamic hull forms.

Importantly, the technology can enable an energy transition for existing vessels, which is particularly relevant given that 55% of the world’s bulker fleets are up to nine years in age.

Cargill is one of the world’s largest transporters of dry and bulk cargo, completing more than 4,500 voyages each year across its chartered fleet. The company charters around 650 vessels worldwide at any one time. 

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