The North Sea Region and the more industrialised parts of North West Europe have some of the highest levels of resource consumption and carbon emissions in the world. Organisations managing inland waterways can play an important role in tackling this, by supporting the EU shift towards a low carbon economy – testing and introducing innovative practices that are resource-efficient and produce minimal carbon emissions.

With stiff targets to reduce emissions, a focus on green business is imperative and clearly expressed throughout the European Green Deal, which aims to make the EU’s economy sustainable. Funders target partnerships that trial different ways of facilitating organisations, consumers, and enterprises to conserve water, reduce waste, recycle materials, and adopt energy efficient practices and technologies.

NIWE members Canal & River Trust, Rijkswaterstaat, Waterways Ireland, and Voies navigables de France are all partners in the Green WIN project which is an excellent example of this theme. This project tackles the problem of the excess energy use and high carbon emissions Waterway Management Organisations (WMO’s) cause when pumping water around the region’s rivers and canals. The RIVER project assessing oxyfuel combustion and carbon capture is another strong initiative including NIWE members in its partnership.

The information below sets out some findings from previous and current EU funded projects NIWE members have participated in or are keeping a keen eye on. We also provide some key documents from other sources that support the importance of this theme and waterway sector.


Green WIN

An Interreg North West Europe (NWE) project which runs from May 2018 to June 2022

This project is tackling the excess energy use and high carbon emissions Waterway Management Organisations (WMO’s) cause when pumping water around the region’s rivers and canals.

The partnership is made up of WMO’s, Universities, Public Service Organisations, and Inland Waterways experts from across NWE and is committed to working together to find solutions to this problem. These are; Canal & River Trust (UK), Waterways Ireland (IE), Ministerie van Infrastructuur en Waterstaat (NL), Université de Liège – HECE (ULiège) (BE) Voies Navigables de France (FR) and Vlaamse Landmaatschappij (BE).

Partners will carry out laboratory trials to check how well current pumping technologies, systems and processes are performing and to see if we can adapt these to optimise performance, use less energy and produce fewer emissions. They trial different configurations of equipment to see if they work more efficiently and if there are optimal ways to deploy these re-configurations in different hydrological and operational scenarios. The project also examines how, or if, we can incorporate renewable energy solutions into existing pumping technologies.

This research stage is followed by live testing of the strongest solutions developed, at 11 pilot sites across the UK, Ireland, and France to check how they work in real operational conditions.

The aim is for the solutions progressed in Green WIN to be developed further, or adapted, by SME’s and pump manufacturers. Individuals or representatives from their trade organisations are being invited to support these activities, participating on an Advisory Board, giving technical advice at the installations of pumps / systems at the trials and in the initial testing at the University of Liège’s laboratories. Their commercial insights will give partners a better understanding of the industry’s needs and help ensure they focus on the things that should increase the chances of our greener technologies, systems and processes getting to market.

Persuading others to adopt Green WIN’s solutions as good practice is vital if to achieve wider efficiencies and carbon reductions. Partners are working hard to ensure the tested solutions are applied across more NWE waterways and want to encourage WMO’s outside the partnership to install equipment or adopt the improved systems and processes demonstrated. The investment, procurement, and business plan to be set out in a Green Practices Toolkit is intended to assist their pump replacement planning when existing equipment approaches ‘end of life’.

A Greener Waterways Network hosted by NIWE has been set up to promote and sustain the findings from Green WIN long in to the future, teaming up with other inland waterway organisations and environmental groups to champion this initiative and encourage more WMO’s across Europe to use them to help ‘make their waterways greener’.

Key outputs and project related evidence:

(WPI 1-3) Initial Assesment Rep (ALL) (final)

(WPT1) A1 Review current practice FINAL

(WPT1) A2.1 Report setting out the results of Lab tests

(WPT2) A1 Reg Framework Funding and Proc Mech FIN




An Interreg North West Europe (NWE) project which runs from January 2018 to September 2021.

RIVER is developing an Oxy-fuel combustion technology for internal combustion engines to virtually eliminate CO2 emissions.

The project is being led by the French research establishment Yncrea Hauts de France based in Lille. Nine other organisations from the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, France, and the UK are also involved across a range of disciplines. Most are involved in the research and development of the technologies and routes to market.

Oxyfuel combustion uses pure oxygen as the primary oxidant to burn hydrocarbon fuels instead of air. The nitrogen component of air requires heating before combustion so by removing this element, fuel consumption can also be reduced. The entire process enables low cost post-combustion Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) by separation of CO2 and steam using condensation. It recovers exhaust energy to improve fuel efficiency and this is combined with a carbon capture technology that stores the expelled CO2 as compressed gas in containers.

Project partners are working together to refine this technology and test it on a vessel to prove it works and can deliver the environmental benefits and cost savings expected from it by the funders.  Other work includes researching and reviewing the regulations involved and what other barriers there are to a greater take up of this technology.

Canal & River Trust are committed to improving infrastructure to facilitate more waterway freight and to reduce CO2 emissions from operations – including its own workboat fleet – so were keen to support this project and facilitate testing and trialling in live conditions.

The original plan was to adapt an existing Trust workboat and the intention was for the boat’s propulsion engine to provide both the electrical power AND propulsion. However, because the individual items of equipment and their starting loads needed factoring into the selection of electrical power generator, the boats propulsion engine was deemed not big enough for BOTH functions.

The proposed solution was:

(1) Use an electric 3 phase transmission motor to power the boat.

(2) Add a hold mounted self-contained generator to power the electric 3 phase transmission motor AND provide the electrical power required for the project equipment.

(3) Mount the project equipment within the boat on two pre-constructed removable “skids”.

Construction started in March 2020 but was delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis. It is on schedule to be completed early in 2021 ready to accommodate the skid and commence ‘on water’ trials and to collect performance data.

At the end of the project, the two skids lift out with all the equipment attached and can be transferred between organisations for further adjustments or enhancements and development work. None of the initial value or functionality of the installation is lost due to its removal from the boat. Once the project has been completed Trust boat will be reduced in overall length and converted back to be a 130 Class F work boat.

A communications programme spreads the word about the technology to propose a much wider regional/European take up in future. RIVER partners are tasked with setting up an Oxyfuel Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Network as part of this campaign, teaming up with SME’s, manufacturers, environmental groups and other European inland waterway transportation organisations to champion this initiative, sustain the outputs developed and to encourage others to use them to ‘make their waterways greener’.

Key outputs and project related evidence:

Project still in progress.




An Interreg North West Europe (NWE) project from the 2014-2020 programme due to run up to the end of 2022.

The H2SHIPS project has 13 Partners from 5 countries and is coordinated by Europäisches Institut für Energieforschung. Associated Partners include NIWE members De Vlaamse Waterweg and Voies Navigables de France.

Project developers argued that because almost 100 % of inland vessels are fuelled by gasoil which, similar to diesel, emits CO2, nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and sulphur dioxide (SO2) – inland waterways and maritime transport sectors have large potentials to become more environmentally friendly.

The advantages of hydrogen propulsion technologies over conventional combustion engines are considerable: Hydrogen can be converted into mechanical or electrical energy completely free of any emission. In addition, hydrogen propulsion systems operate silently and require less maintenance. Hydrogen propulsion is already close to full market maturity and is the only option that allows total decarbonisation of waterborne transport with high efficiency and high energy density. Its uptake requires dedicated infrastructure, close to end users.

With predictable routes and proximity with other industries, water transport proves particularly well suited to hydrogen solutions. H2SHIPS aims to kick-start the necessary value chain.

H2SHIPS demonstrates the technical and economic feasibility of hydrogen bunkering and propulsion for shipping and identifies the conditions for successful market entry for the technology. Two pilot projects are implemented as part of H2SHIPS: A new hydrogen powered port vessel being built in Amsterdam and in Belgium an H2 refuelling system suitable for open sea operation is being developed and tested.

A further major output is an action plan for the implementation of an H2SHIPS pilot on the river Seine in Paris in 2022. H2SHIPS demonstrates the added-value of H2 for water transport and develop a blueprint for its adoption across North-West Europe, avoiding considerable GHG-emissions.

Key outputs and project related evidence:

Project still in progress.