A Case for Advanced Combustion Conditioning’s Crucial Role in Decarbonising Shipping

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Image used for representational purposes only (Image Courtesy: FUELSAVE)

The adaptability of the internal combustion engine (ICE) will be crucial, not only to achieving compliance with the IMO’s greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction targets, but also to reaping the benefits of slashing the cost of expensive alternative clean and low carbon bunker fuels. Marc Sima, CEO and Co-Founder of FUELSAVE, explains in this exclusive article.

Marc Sima, CEO and Co-Founder of FUELSAVE (Image Courtesy: FUELSAVE)

In the shipping industry and marine fuel markets, an urgent and profound overhaul is underway to ensure the sector meets the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets. Unlike previous transitions such as the move from coal to fuel oil, the move to decarbonise shipping is far more complex, and the most effective route to compliance is yet to be conclusively agreed. Indeed, there is no single effective route or a “one size fits all” type of solution.

The key pillars of the transition to green shipping are future clean fuel alternatives, energy efficiency enhancement measures, emission abatement technologies and after-treatment systems in orchestration with emission tax and trading schemes. According to the current outlook, it will be several decades before these pillars achieve the necessary scale to power the global fleet and transport 90% of the world’s goods. In the meantime, deep sea shipping (which is responsible for 80% of the overall emissions of the merchant fleet) will still heavily rely on fossil fuels and certified drop-in fuel alternatives up to 2050 and beyond.

However, what we can say now, conclusively, is that fuel flexibility – the ability of ships to burn more than one low-carbon fuel as availability, cost and emission balance dictates – would be commercially and environmentally advantageous.

Advanced combustion conditioning using hydrogen and methanol can provide complimentary benefits to all of these four pillars. The technology provides greater fuel flexibility and better means to adjust and optimize the combustion process independent of the primary fuel being used, via the air intake. This delivers a unique value add in a sustainable and economically viable clean-fuel transition, contributing to decarbonisation efforts in line with IMO’s GHG reduction targets.

Whether ships use methanol, ammonia or another future fuel(s), a highly flexible energy converter that is capable of using a variety of fuels to power a ship’s propulsion and/or energy generation will prove fundamental.

Internal Combustion Engines (ICEs) – flexible and future proof energy converter

The beauty of the ICE is its ability to burn a variety of clean fuels with only limited modifications to the engine and its components, with further emissions reductions realised when the engine is used in combination with advanced combustion conditioning. This offers ship owners and operators an effective route to compliance, using the ICE as a robust and proven technology platform.

However, technical feasibility is not the only consideration. Traditionally, bunker fuel has been treated as a commodity, and the focus for shipping has been on securing the lowest possible price. This will not change with the introduction of low-carbon fuels – which could potentially reach three or four times the cost of current fossil-based fuel, with the latter effectively a ‘waste’ or ‘residual’ energy source that will no longer be permitted for use.

One way to make the process of burning liquid and gaseous fuels in ICEs leaner, cleaner and more cost competitive is through the use of advanced combustion conditioning (such as FS MARINE+). The technology provides new means for owners and operators to adjust the engine and emission performance for different current and upcoming types of fuels and operating environments.  It involves injecting dynamically hydrogen, oxygen, water and methanol into the combustion process, in order to help condition and enhance the combustion – providing a cleaner, more thorough, and more efficient burn at a better stoichiometric mix throughout the operating range, substituting some of the dirty primary fuels with clean fuel alternatives, at higher thermal and volumetric efficiency of the engine.

Supporting Van Oord’s emissions goals

Most recently, the world’s leading dredging firm, Van Oord, has selected FS MARINE+ to be installed on its DP3 subsea rock installation vessel MV Bravenes. The project is part of Van Oord’s commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2050, with the technology significantly contributing to substantial carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxide (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and black carbon (BC) reduction on Van Oord’s existing offshore vessels.

Having been successfully field and lab-proven, and validated for four-stroke engines, the next important step is to adapt and scale up the tech for two-stroke engines – the engine of choice for the largest fuel consumers and emission producers of the merchant fleet, including container/cargo ships, dry bulk carriers, and tankers/VLCCs. The project is being funded under the 3 Mio “CleanerShip” project from the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). FUELSAVE also has a testbench slot with one of the world’s largest engine manufacturers for the end of end 2021/ early 2022, when FS MARINE+ will be tested on a modern 2-stroke dual-fuel engine before being deployed in a pilot project for an around 70MW 2 stroke slow-speed main engine for propulsion.

Working with wind

In the medium to long term, ship owners, operators, charterers, shippers, consumers and politicians will drive the types of fuels and energy we see powering shipping. Wind power is one complimentary propulsion method for energy efficiency enhancement and reduction of primary fuel consumption and the related Co2 emissions, with the International WindShip Association (IWSA) recently claiming that rapid scaling across the global fleet could pay for itself in the next decade(s).

Assuming the same primary fuel savings for both technologies (i.e., 10% FOC reduction), advanced combustion conditioning comes at a lower CAPEX, shorter return on investment (ROI) and over 400% overall higher total Co2-e / GHG reduction, even without economies of scale. This is possible because, in addition to reducing primary fuel like a wind rotor or other efficiency enhancement technology, advanced combustion conditioning also cleans up the combustion, as well as significantly reducing Black Carbon – BC (GWP 3200) and NOX (GWP 298) emissions. This delivers much greater overall emissions reduction and impact for vessel owners and operators.  

As a result, we see that ICEs, in combination with advanced combustion conditioning, energy efficiency enhancement measures, certified drop-in clean-fuel alternatives and wind power, are providing the best combination of emission reduction and OPEX cost savings for the existing merchant fleet today. Clean fuel alternatives will render aftertreatment systems like scrubbers partially obsolete, while OPEX savings due to rising fuel oil costs and emission taxes will become ever more important, which is exactly where combustion conditioning can play its vital role.

With a solution like FS MARINE+ ship owners and operators can experience even further OPEX savings in combinations with after treatment systems like selective catalyst reduction (SCRs) to meet and exceed IMO Tier 3 compliance, as combustion conditioning is not treating a symptom, but tackling the root of the problem directly at the combustion level, being perfectly complimentary to everything that is happening before or after the combustion.

Flexibility is key

With the path to decarbonisation towards net zero in shipping still fraught with unknowns, a key differentiator for all solutions is their ability to work flexibly and at scale.

This includes adapting and supporting new decarbonisation strategies as they become available and deploying them at scale to maximize their impact for the environment. Solutions adopted as part of the new green shipping mix must also provide reliable redundancy and fault tolerance, which ensures there is no negative impact the operation of the vessel.

Advanced combustion conditioning ticks these boxes, while maximising the cost and emissions savings to ship owners and operators, providing new levels of flexibility to adjust to future fuels and optimize the engine performance and emission balance. With UMAS and the Energy Transitions Commission for the Getting to Zero Coalition placing the cost of reducing shipping’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% by 2050 at $1trn–$1.4trn, the sector cannot afford to overlook this proven, mature technology, which outperforms other efficiency enhancement technologies by over 400% for the total Co2-e / GHG reduction potential, while paying for itself from the achieved savings.

Sea News Feature, April 13

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra

Associate Editor, Sea News