Keeping the seas green with top engine performance

Opinion | July 18, 2023


Lars Karlsson

Global Product Manager for Cylmate
ABB Measurement & Analytics


When out shopping or receiving a parcel delivery to our doorstep, not many of us pay much thought to how the goods we purchase have got there. For the majority of goods, the answer is most likely to be by ship. Carrying around 90 percent of all world trade, from food and manufactured goods through to oil and gas, ships represent the workhorse of the global economy, racking up thousands of nautical miles every year.

As the engine of global trade, shipping is subject to strict regulations aimed at curbing emissions of pollutants to air and sea, which, if left uncontrolled, can be detrimental both to aquatic life and the wider environment.

Where emissions to air are concerned, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set the industry the tough challenge of achieving a 40 percent reduction in carbon intensity by 2030 compared to 2008 levels, with a further obligation to achieve a 50 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared to 2008 levels.


With the average age of many ocean-going vessels pushing 20 years or over, marine operators are having to find new ways to make sure that their vessels can meet the required standards whilst keeping operational costs down. 

Cutting fuel consumption is a recognised way of both cutting emissions from vessels and reducing costs. One popular technique employed by many ship’s captains is slow steaming, where the ship’s speed is reduced. Originally pioneered by shipping line Maersk in 2009, slow steaming has since been embraced by the industry as a way of reducing the amount of fuel used during a voyage. According to estimates from IEA Bioenergy, cutting a ship’s speed from 27 knots to 18 knots can give a potential reduction in fuel consumption of 59 percent.

However, running at reduced speed can have adverse consequences for ships. These can include a reduction in engine performance and combustion efficiency, as well as a similar loss of performance due to the use of low-quality fuel.

There is also a potential problem with fouling of the exhaust gas boiler, as well as soot deposits on moving parts. Premature wear and tear of vital parts is another danger, as is under and over-lubrication of components.

To meet these targets and requirements while avoiding the drawbacks of slow steaming, vessels need to fit technologies that can measure a variety of parameters connected with engine performance and emissions.


Continuous control with Cylmate

One such technology is ABB’s Cylmate continuous engine performance measurement and monitoring system. Designed for diesel engines, Cylmate is a continuous engine pressure monitoring system that uses a mathematical model to assess engine performance. Any deviations from optimum show up as an alarm, allowing the ship’s engineering staff to take action.

The solution offers great benefits to the pollution conscious ship operator. Constant monitoring gets the best performance out of an engine, improving efficiency and cutting fuel consumption. In turn, this accurate and continuous performance monitoring helps to quickly spot any problems, cutting the time spent finding and fixing them and allowing staff to take preventive action to ensure the engine remains fully functional.

The benefits offered by Cylmate have led to the technology being used on the first of Maersk’s new class of ‘Triple E’ container ships, the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller. Capable of carrying 18,270 twenty-foot standard containers, these diesel-powered ships have been designed to combine a large cargo capacity with minimal energy consumption and environmental impact. To ensure its twin eight-cylinder engines operate at peak performance, the Maersk Mc-Kinney Møller uses Cylmate to continuously measure combustion pressure in the engine cylinders. By enabling the tuning and controlling of the combustion pressure stroke-by-stroke, Cylmate helps to optimize engine performance, saving money, improving energy efficiency and reducing fuel consumption, as well as ensuring compliance with environmental regulations through cleaner emissions. 


Leaner performance, cleaner seas

With shipping ranking as the world’s sixth largest emitter of greenhouse gases, there is a pressing need to find ways to reduce emissions to a minimum as the volumes of cargo transported by sea continues to grow. As with many other industries, improvement starts with measurement – accurately measuring engine performance ultimately means a better environment, ensuring we keep the seas green.

For more about the benefits of Cylmate, plus ABB’s other measurement technologies for marine applications, watch our Seven Cs webinars below.

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