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Project to develop fuel-saving technology for old container ships

Research project aims to reduce the energy consumption of container ships by 10-20 percent.





Updated on 04 Jun 2013 08:38 GMT

A new research project aims to reduce the energy consumption of container ships by between 10 and 20 percent.

The Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation (Højteknologifonden) has invested DKK 5 million in a project which is a collaboration between MAN Diesel & Turbo, Maersk Line and DTU Mekanik (The Technical University of Denmark's Mechanical Technology Department).

Increasing oil prices have resulted in container ships having to sail at a slower speed in order to save fuel. However, Maersk Line points out that the slower speed has implications for the performance of the engine and wear and tear of components, and result in neither engines nor propellers working optimally. As a consequence, the existing fleet has to be fitted with new technology that is energy-optimised for lower speeds and, at the same time, has a lower level of emissions than is the case today.

New ships can be designed with highly energy-efficient engine systems, but, according to Maersk Line, there is no existing solution for the many ships already sailing around the world. As a result, MAN Diesel & Turbo, Maersk Line and DTU Mekanik have pooled their efforts to develop new technology and design new propellers that are adapted for existing container ships.

"It is the equivalent of renovating an old house for the purpose of saving energy: fitting a new boiler, replacing windows, re-insulation etc," Maersk Line said, adding that the project has the potential to achieve economic gains in the double-digit million range per ship.

The container shipping giant explained that the process is not as simple as replacing the old engine with a new, more energy-efficient one. The engine system of a container ship entails advanced interplay between the hull, propeller and the engine itself. As a result, DTU Mekanik has, along with MAN Diesel & Turbo - who design two-stroke engines and propellers - developed a tool that is able to calculate the interaction between the three components so that it is possible to customise the optimal solution for each series of ships.

DTU Mekanik's Poul Andersen remarked: "In order to re-design propellers and engines, it is crucial that you know the precise conditions relating to the individual ship. Consequently, we have to modify the calculation tools we already have so that they are more capable of modelling the interaction between the ship and its propellers and we can go to the limits in the design of the propellers for the existing ships."

If the project is a success, the aim is to test a prototype at sea in order to obtain further knowledge. Commercial and operational considerations permitting, this may be carried out on one of Maersk Line’s ships.

"We are constantly challenging our ships in terms of operation and are seeking ways of making the existing fleet more efficient and environmentally friendly. This project is unique in its holistic approach to propeller design and engine performance optimised for lower speeds. With ambitions of saving 10-20% in energy, the project is, at the same time, an excellent opportunity to strengthen our cooperation on innovation with one of our core suppliers," said Niels H. Bruus, Head of Global Optimisation and Innovation at Maersk Line.

"We expect to be able to cultivate an entirely new area of business entailing comprehensive upgrading and streamlining and that will benefit both the industry and the environment," added MAN Diesel & Turbo's Niels Freese.






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