Canadian Biomass Magazine

Drax, NYK, Tsuneishi sign MOU to develop ‘bioship’ technology to construct world’s first biomass-fuelled ship

May 14, 2024
By Canadian Biomass Staff

Rendering of bioship.

Plans are coming together to build the world’s first biomass-fuelled ship.

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) has been signed by Japanese companies NYK Line, NYK Bulk & Projects Carriers, Tsuneishi Shipbuilding, and British renewable energy business Drax Group. It outlines plans to develop the bioship and the technology that could power it.

“Drax aims to be carbon negative by 2030 and decarbonising our supply chain is critical to reaching this goal. This MoU is an important step in the development of the technology required to power and launch the world’s first bioship, which will support Drax’s decarbonisation goals but could also drive the innovation needed to transform shipping and cut carbon emissions and fuel costs in global supply chains,” said Paul Sheffield, Drax Group’s chief commercial officer.

Biomass is playing a growing role in Japan’s transition from fossil fuel power generation to low carbon and renewable electricity, and the country’s demand for biomass pellets, sourced primarily from North America and composed of sawmill and forestry residues, is increasing.


Drax produces biomass pellets in both the US South and Canada. The company has a longstanding relationship with NBP which transports its pellets to Japan.

From left, Kenichi Shibata: Managing Executive Officer/General Manager of Design Division, TSUNEISHI SHIPBUILDING Co., Ltd.; Paul Sheffield: Chief Commercial Officer, Drax Group; Masashi Suda: President, Chief Executive Officer, NYK Bulk & Projects Carriers Ltd.; Shinichi Yanagisawa: Executive Officer, NYK Line

These pellets are currently shipped through smaller handysize bulkers, which, due to the limited size of their fuel tanks, have proved challenging to switch to lower emission fuels, such as ammonia.

Through the MoU, which was signed at the British Embassy in Tokyo, the companies will initially conduct research to develop the new shipping technology, an on-board biomass fuel plant, which would be required to power a bioship. The four companies are exploring how other renewable technologies could be used to reduce both the emissions and fuel costs of shipping biomass.

The biomass fuel plant would use a gasifier to combust biomass at high temperatures and create and contain gases including carbon monoxide, hydrogen, and methane. These gases would then be used to power a generator which could propel the bioship and also provide a proportion of its internal power.

The installation of a biomass fuel plant could see a 22% reduction in well-to-wake carbon emissions in bioships when compared to using fossil fuels. If this development is successful, the companies will jointly study the possibility of building a bioship by the end of 2029.

“This initiative is part of NYK’s long-term target of net-zero emissions of greenhouse gas (GHG) by 2050 for the NYK Group’s oceangoing businesses,” said Shinichi Yanagisawa, executive officer of NYK Line. “The NYK Group is committed to providing its expertise in low-carbon and decarbonised maritime transportation as per this MOU and will utilize the knowledge gained in this research and development to promote initiatives related to various energy-saving technologies. Through our strength in high-quality transportation services, we will continue to co-create value for society with our partners DRAX and Tsuneishi Shipbuilding.”

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