Less fuel, more power in the Panama Canal

2009-10-05 - Many of the 14,700 ships that annually pass through the world’s largest big-ship waterway are equipped with an energy-efficient ABB technology that quadruples engine output and slashes fuel consumption.

By ABB Communications

Everyday about 40 ships make the 8-10 hour journey through the 80-kilometer system of artificial lakes, locks and channels that make up the Panama Canal and link the world’s two largest oceans and continental seaboards, the Pacific and the Atlantic.

A large number of these ships are equipped with ABB turbochargers, a technology that ABB developed in the 1920s and in which it has been the market and technology leader for almost 90 years.

Container ships, cruise ships, tankers, ice breakers, ferries – they all rely on ABB turbochargers, as do many of the world’s diesel and gas power plants, diesel locomotives, and the huge mining trucks that transport minerals and rocks in open-pit mining.

What is it that makes ABB turbochargers and ABB turbocharging technology so important to all of these essential industrial sectors?


Many of the ships passing through the busy Panama Canal rely on ABB technology for engine performance.
ABB turbochargers recycle the exhaust gas emitted by gas or diesel engines to achieve a huge fourfold increase in engine output. In other words, 75 percent of the total engine output is dependent on this single ABB component.

With this magnitude of efficiency and the resultant drop in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions, it is not surprising that ABB turbochargers have become standard components in diesel- and gas-powered engines the world over.

Of compact and robust design, ABB turbochargers have consistently set the industry benchmark in terms of key performance indicators like efficiency, pressure ratio, compact size, low weight, minimal number of components, long service life and times between overhaul (TBO).

The turbocharger is critical to engine performance. If a ship’s turbocharger fails, the engine can lose up to 75 percent of its power

As the global industry leader ABB supports engine manufacturers and end users with an extensive global service network in more than 100 locations. One of the most recent additions to the network is a service station at the Panama Canal, where ABB engineers respond to emergencies or perform standard maintenance while ships wait to cross the canal.

ABB produces a comprehensive range of state-of-the-art turbochargers for diesel and gas engines in the 500 kW to 25 MW power range – from units for small medium- and high-speed engines to the ultra-powerful turbochargers for the huge 2-stroke marine diesel engines that power large ocean-going vessels.



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    ABB’s TPL91-B, the largest in the TPL range of turbochargers for large marine diesel engine outputs of up to 28 MW per turbocharger. Turbochargers consist of a compressor and a turbine mounted on a common shaft in the engine. The exhaust gas drives the turbine, which powers the compressor, and the compressed air is then fed into the engine via a cooler.

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