Ranvei Dahl Isaksen and Helle Hofstad Trapnes from COWI. Photo: Chris Jørgen K. Rødland

The electrification of the maritime sector means that market players must prepare for sustainable handling of batteries at the end of their life. A new Maritime CleanTech report shows that public incentives are needed to stimulate the reuse and recycling of batteries.

In a new study  by COWI   written on behalf of Maritime CleanTech –  the value chain of batteries in the maritime sector has been mapped – from manufacturers to end-users, and those who handle the batteries at the end of their life.

Head of Innovation in Maritime CleanTech, Øystein Huglen. Photo: Marius Knutsen

– Through this preliminary study, we aim to give our green maritime industry valuable insight into the circular economy and how we can utilize this to create value and a greener lifecycle, says Øystein Huglen, Head of Innovation in Maritime CleanTech.

The study, which was launched today, is examining different models for securing the greenest possible outcome for maritime batteries. Providing green, sustainable solutions is becoming a Norwegian trademark, and setting the focus on sustainability throughout the entire value chain can strengthen this Norwegian advantage even further.

– The ongoing scale-up of manufacturing facilities that is taking place in our cluster, is exciting to follow. Calculating the life cycle footprint of the growing amount of battery cells reveals a significant industry challenge, Øystein Huglen adds.

A need to make the reusing of batteries more profitable

Cluster partner COWI has led the study work. Through dialogue with Maritime CleanTech partners involved in the battery-electric revolution at sea, they have mapped the operations of the Norwegian value chain for marine batteries.

Even though the industry wants the batteries to be reused or recycled when they are no longer suitable for operation, more facilitation is needed from the public sector. With the rapidly increasing demand for batteries, it is crucial to start a circular economy to minimize the impact on the environment. With adapted legislation, it will be far easier for the industry to act, fit their business models and increase the focus on reuse and recycling.

– There is a great potential for reusing batteries for various purposes in the maritime sector, for example for storing solar or wind power, says Helle Hofstad Trapnes, Environmental Advisor at COWI.

The batteries can, among other things, be used to store surplus energy from renewable energy production and to stabilize the power grid, as required.

– One must check the condition of the batteries and based on this, assess whether the battery is suitable for reuse or should be recycled. Information from the industry indicates that it is technically possible to recycle all components. This combined with reuse will be an important measure to reduce the footprint on the extraction of virgin minerals, continues Ranvei Dahl Isaksen, advisor for climate and energy at COWI.

Expects acceleration towards a circular economy for marine batteries

Batteries in maritime vessels usually have a lifespan of approx. 10 years, but today hardly any maritime battery installations have come so far that they are ready for replacement.

– When we get there, there will be a more urgent need for handling the battery waste responsibly and on a large scale. This will hopefully accelerate the transition to a circular economy, Helle Hofstad Trapnes says.

The battery regulation in the EU, which is expected to be implemented this year, might solve several of the regulatory challenges related to producer responsibility, reuse, and material recycling of batteries.

– We must get to the point where the infrastructure and systems are in place when there is gradually a larger volume of old batteries that need to be reused or recycled. It is therefore a strong need for cooperation throughout the value chain, says Trapnes.

The study was first released at a workshop in Bergen. Photo: Chris Jørgen K. Rødland

Together with our cluster partners, Maritime CleanTech initiated this project on circular aspects for maritime batteries. Innovation Norway has supported the work.