Addressing new marine emissions regulations with alternative power solutions

Friday, August 31, 2018

Alternative power solutions

The implications of marine emissions compliance are more relevant than ever before. With the introduction of Sulphur 2020 — an IMO initiative limiting the amount of Sulphur in fuel oil to 0.50 percent m/m by January 1, 2020 — emissions regulations will further impact vessels worldwide. Sulphur 2020 is challenging the sector to rethink their methods. Thus, many ship owners and operators are searching for alternative ways to improve efficiency and reduce emissions in their fleet. These can include a mix of hydraulic, electric and traditional power sources.

Clunky, conventional solutions

There are two conventional ways to reduce emissions: implement a gas cleaning system or switch the type of fuel altogether.

Using a gas cleaning system, or scrubbers, means that operators can run their fleet as normal. The only difference is adding the scrubbers to the existing exhaust system. Operators should note there are new technologies available to monitor and control these systems, which can streamline operations and extend the system’s life.

Making the switch to using low-sulphur fuel oil, natural gas or methanol are also alternatives. However, it can add significant operation and potential conversion costs.

Electric propulsion solutions are a developing area in the marine sector. Some full electric vessels are already in service, with longer-range vessels on the horizon. However, limitations include battery technology, which impacts the range and capability of any vessel. It is also expensive to implement compared to conventional solutions, eliminating any benefit of switching in the first place.

Hybrid systems

With the current marine emissions climate, switching to a hybrid diesel/electric solution can be a cost-effective and energy efficient alternative. These systems combine conventional propulsion with active electrical energy storage and management to reduce fuel operation requirements.

Cruise liner applications are already implementing hybridization, reporting fuel savings up to 25 percent. However, these solutions still need to be optimized for work vessels.

That’s where hydraulic power comes in. The power density, controllability and flexibility of hydraulic systems allow them to manage variable loads. Hydraulic motors are a fraction of the size of the electric equivalent, providing a greater power-to-weight ratio and the ability to withstand harsher marine operating conditions.

Balancing power needs

Mixing and matching hydraulic, electric and traditional power options provides exciting opportunities — not only for meeting marine emissions requirements but also for optimizing a vessel’s operations.

To strike the right balance, designers, ship builders and operators should work with a skilled partner. Streamlining the power system can have major construction, operation and maintenance implications, cutting costs in the long-term.