Optimizing engine performance on land and sea

2014-04-04 - Innovative solution from ABB saves fuel and increases reliability

ABB’s Measurement Products business prides itself on developing instrumentation and analyzers that make solving tough measurement applications easy for customers. In this third in a series of articles, we discover how ABB Measurement Products’ helps the shipping and power companies save fuel and improve the reliability of large diesel engines.

Fuel costs and reliability are two of the most prominent issues facing ship owner/operators today. With new environmental legislation on the horizon and long-term fuel prices set to increase, these factors will only increase in importance. Meanwhile, demand for seaborne trade is expected to grow in line with global GDP at around 4 percent per year.

As in any industrial context, managing the performance of a ship’s engines increasingly requires information on a real-time basis. An optimized engine, where all cylinders are working in balance, uses less fuel and incurs less wear. An engine out of balance can quickly develop thermal and mechanical stress points that drag down fuel economy and increase maintenance costs.

ABB’s Measurement Products designed their Cylmate system specifically for continuous monitoring of the performance of two-stroke diesel engines used both in marine and stationary applications. Pressure transducers provide real-time measurement of compression in each cylinder. This combined with precise measurements of crank shaft position provide a detailed picture of the engine’s operation in real time so that combustion pressure can be tuned stroke by stroke.

Using a system like Cylmate can reduce fuel consumption by 1 to 2 percent. That may not sound like a lot, but when you consider that large ships measure fuel consumption in tons per hour, even a small percentage gain will yield real savings. In fact, the payback time on a typical monitoring system is less than one year based on improved fuel economy alone.

Like other modes of transportation, ships are becoming more sophisticated, with an increasing number of them equipped with electronically controlled engines. As this becomes the industry norm, continuous combustion pressure measurements will likewise become standard.

The largest and most advanced container vessels today such as the massive Maersk “Triple-E” class, which carry more than 18,000 container units, rely on monitoring systems like Cylmate to optimize engine operations and keep costs down.

But the advance of engine technology is not limited to oceangoing vessels. Stationary engines used to generate electricity face the same challenges in terms of fuel costs and uptime.

ABB’s Measurement Products have also helped the Barbados Light & Power company (BL&P) serves 280,000 residents with electricity primarily from diesel-powered generators. BL&P has installed two Cylmate systems at their Spring Garden power station to monitor engine performance and ensure a high level of reliability. The system has given them new insights into engine operations, for example by identifying conditions that could lead to a worn cylinder liner before experiencing a costly failure. Replacing a cylinder liner costs around $30,000 not to mention the impact to the rest of the power system.

Whether on land or at sea, diesel engines are likely to be a vital power source for many years to come, but they will face increasing performance challenges from an economic and a regulatory standpoint. Technologies like combustion pressure monitoring and control will be a vital tool in meeting these requirements.

Learn more about ABB’s Measurement Products at www.abb.com/measurement

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