Thursday, June 9, 2011

NH Sea Grant begins GREEN-FIT Project to Address Fuel Savings

Although fuel prices have started to drop just a bit the past couple of weeks, recent upward trends in diesel prices have sent a warning shot across the bow of New England’s fishing fleet. “Operational costs are crushing us,” explains David Goethel, a Hampton, NH fisherman. “Fuel is now up a dollar from last year and the price of fish is down a dollar.” While fishermen are exploring ways like direct marketing to increase the value of their catch, many are also looking at ways to reduce the input costs to their businesses. Goethel explains, “This situation puts us on a collision course with disaster and we’re looking to save money any way we can.”
New Hampshire Sea Grant and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, recently began a project with David Goethel and Jeff Steele, of Global Marine Consulting to do just that. This project , supported by the Northeast Consortium will utilize the expertise of Jeff Steele, to consult with fishermen and look for and implement modifications to their vessel that will reduce fuel and operational costs. Steele “is best known for refitting the FV Time Bandit made famous from television reality show, “Deadliest Catch” with fuel-efficient and other modifications that improve emissions and operational costs (a Green-fit). Improving existing vessels in this way is part of that Steele refers to as his “Go-Green Vessel” program which he feels will help todays' fishing fleet prepare for the future. “Over the next decade the boats themselves will not change much as new more efficient hulls are too costly to build, so the "older" fleet will continue. Some vessels will be re-powered but the majority will continue with the older engines due to the high cost of new engines. The opportunity is to provide the technologies and equipment to "upgrade" the current fleet."

The Geen-Fit Program
The Green-Fit project is based on the idea that people are more likely to adopt a new way of doing things when they are able to see people they know, who are doing things like them, have success with a new approach. In that spirit, Jeff Steele will Green-Fit David Goethel’s trawling vessel (FV Ellen Diane) with a number of modifications that are designed to improve operational efficiency and the environmental footprint while David fishes. The Green-Fit will serve as a platform for exploring both behavioral and technical options for improving the fuel economy of the bottom-trawl industry. Modifications will include a hydrogen fuel injection system, a fuel filtration system and a by-pass oil filtration system. The hydrogen fuel injection system uses electricity from the boat to separate hydrogen and oxygen from water and inject the hydrogen into the ignition system improving the engine’s combustion system. Burning the fuel more efficiently has the added benefit of reducing emissions. These modifications could improve Goethel’s fuel use by up to 30%. The by-pass oil filtration system will lengthen the life of engine oil, reducing the frequency that he must pay for oil changes. This could save him 80% of the costs that he would otherwise spend on new oil and for the oil changes. “David may never need to change his oil again” Steele proclaims. The by-pass oil filtration system costs just over $1,000.00 and the hydrogen fuel injection system will run close to $5,000.00 installed. As a former New England fisherman, Steele understands the financial stress fishermen are under, but he sees hope for the future with the help of relatively inexpensive vessel modifications, “I believe in the benefits of these new technologies. They can make life better for the people that run and work these vessels, and they can help improve the environment as well.”
So, are you ready to Green-fit your boat? Probably not – it will help to see whether these technologies will work as advertised, and to see some numbers that can better quantify the cost-benefit of each modification a vessel owner may consider. “You don’t know that it works until you measure it” as Jeff Steele explains. David Goethel elaborates, “We need to see if these things really work, can it work on my 2-cycle Detroit Diesel? How soon would someone recover their costs for these things and what are the pitfalls of trying them?” Goethel asks

Fuel Usage Baseline and Monitoring

With this in mind, the first step of the Green-fit project will be to collect baseline information. How often is David currently changing his oil? How much does he spend on oil? What are emissions from his boat? How much fuel is he burning under his normal fishing operations and how much does it cost? Data will be collected to answer all these questions. To answer this last question, a fuel flow meter will be installed on his vessel and he will operate his boat under normal conditions for 1 to 2 weeks.
The next step will be to install the new equipment on the FV Ellen Diane. Data will be collected to compare the benefit of adding the new equipment. The fuel flow meter will measure the benefit of adding the hydrogen fuel injector unit and the fuel filter. Emissions and costs related to changing the vessel’s oil will be measured. The influence of the way that Goethel tows or how fast he transits on fuel consumption will also be measured. Engine torque sensors will be installed to accurately equate how hard the engine is working to how much fuel is used. In this way, weather and sea conditions can be factored into the evaluation. All of the information gathered from the project will be presented in workshops and online with the goal of providing a “menu” of options with costs and benefits that other fishermen may choose to improve their operating costs. In addition to working with a trawling vessel, the New Hampshire Sea Grant and University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension are looking to expand the project to demonstrate similar technologies on a lobster boat.
The modifications will be made to FV Ellen Diane at the beginning of July. Stay tuned for progress and look for a “menu” of operational cost-saving options coming soon!

For more information on this project, visit
or contact Erik Chapman

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