Precipitating seawater into artificial rock, electro-hydrogen-powered maritime transport, a connected waste-collecting net, a plastic pyrolyzer that produces diesel… maritime technological innovation is doing well in Provence-Alpes-Côte of Azure. A dynamism materialized by the presence of four companies based in Paca, including three in the Bouches-du-Rhône, out of the 15 nominees of the fourth edition of the Ocean Innovation Trophies, sponsored by the Ministry of the Sea. Presentation of these companies.
Geocorail: concrete made entirely from seawater
Five years of research and development between 2012 and 2017 were necessary for Géocorail to manage to precipitate seawater in artificial rock. An electric current circulates in the submerged metal plate which, by electrolysis, will generate a precipitation of calcium and magnesium naturally present in seawater. shell residues, which form the binders of the concrete, present on the seabed to create an artificial rock”, explains Sébastien Bigaré, development manager at Géocorail.
“The advantage of this process is its lower economic cost – all the necessary materials are already on site – and its very low ecological impact. The downside is the slow growth of this artificial rock, around ten centimeters per year, which means that our technology cannot respond to emergency situations. But it is perfect for fighting against erosion”, sums up Sébastien Bigaré.
Based in Marseille, the company is experiencing rapid growth, with turnover rising from 25,000 euros in 2007 to just over one million in 2021. Among their customers, the naval military base of Toulon, the communities of Saint – Tropez and Cannes for the construction of swell breezes, work on the riprap at the Prado, in Marseilles, and the design of an artificial reef in Agde. Internationally, contracts have been concluded with hotel groups in the Maldives and Brazil which are experiencing problems with the erosion of the coastline they own.
Low-emission maritime urban passenger and freight transport
Heading for the Paris Olympics for NepTech, a company based in Aix-en-Provence created in 2020 by a naval architect, an engineer and a commercial developer. Various patents have been developed by this team, particularly in the reduction of hydrodynamic drag by injecting air bubbles under the hulls of their catamarans. “A device that compensates for the weight of electro-hydrogen propulsion systems, without carbon emissions, but which are three to four times heavier than diesel engines,” notes Tanguy Goetz, communications manager.
Their prototype is currently being tested on Lake Peyrolles, near Aix-en-Provence. A choice of geographical location “motivated by the possibility of carrying out tests in calm waters, in Peyrolles therefore, but also in open waters, in Marseilles, and by river, on the Rhône”, explains Tanguy Goetz. Also, the presence of the shipyards of La Ciotat and Martigues was decisive in this choice.
Selected in the call for innovation issued by the committee of the 2024 Olympic Games, this company hopes to win its first contracts for passenger transport in Paris and Marseille by this time.
Earthwake, an autonomous machine to turn plastics into fuel
“It all started with meeting Christopher Costes, an inventor based in the Alpes-Maritimes,” begins François Danel, CEO of Earthwake, former head of Action Against Hunger. The story of this company, launched in 2021, is first and foremost that of an association whose objective is to recover plastic waste from poor countries. “Christopher Costes was tinkering in his garage in the village located about fifty kilometers from Nice, a prototype of pyrolysis which, by heating plastic waste to 450° without oxygen, breaks the molecules, and makes them return to their original state, oil”, continues François Danel. A few years of development have made it possible to adjust the machine, which is now capable of converting 40 kg of plastic waste into 40 l of diesel.
Better still, once it has started, it does not need an energy supply, heating by reusing the gases released by combustion. Earthwake has already signed a contract with the community of communes of Puget-Théniers, which we have discussed here, which runs some of its trucks with this fuel. This company is currently discussing with a community in Lot-et-Garonne as well as with the authorities of the island of Kerkennah, in Tunisia, and others in Africa. In 2021, it launched a new industrial site in the Vaucluse, in order to build machines with greater capacity. “Depolluting and providing energy were our objectives”, sums up François Denel. It looks like he’s getting there.
Greencity, nets to collect waste before it flows into the sea
We no longer present (or almost) Greencity, whose 20 minutes has already spoken here. This Marseille company has developed a connected net intended to collect plastic waste carried by rainwater before it ends up in the sea. Its first was installed on one of the 70 outlets in the Old Port on December 14 last.