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Diesel Engine Efficiency and Emissions ~ Time for action

Posted to Diesel Engine Efficiency and Emmissions ~ Time for action (by on March 10, 2010

The climate calls out, health issues abound, regulators are writing legislation faster than the operators can comply and the maritime and land based power community pushes for increased efficiency to improve it's bottom line. Sound familiar? What we have here is what I often call the "All horn and no drive shaft" approach. Everyone wants results however, no one wants to fund whats needed to prove the technology. We've seen diesel propulsion come full circle so let's see how we can get these issues off center, prove the technology that can deal with it through independent research and testing and leave the simple ROI calculations to the ship owners.

What are the main concerns with regards to diesel engine efficiency?

Fuel costs
Fuel consumption
Efficient combustion
Utilization of waste heat
Emissions compliance

If you take points 2-4 above in a standard, well maintained plant you already have the basics of a plant which is fuel efficient and in trim with respect to emissions, in essence a clear stack. While the elements of exhaust emissions, CO2, SOx, NOX and EPM are still there they can be reduced with proven technology provided, engine health is maintained.

What are some of the areas already out there to improve fuel, emissions  and engine efficiency?

Fuel/water emulsions
Fuel homogenization
Fuel additives
Fuel blends including biodiesel
Gaseous enrichment - hydrogen gas generators
Variable geometry turbo charging
Waste heat recovery systems
Various power turbine configurations

What are some of the areas already out there for emissions reduction?

Wet scrubbers
Newly announced dry scrubbers
Selective catalytic reduction
Exhaust gas recirculation
Particulate filters
Charge air humidification

What we have seen, while not all inclusive, the preceding points indicate areas which have seen intense debate, flurries of testing by their developers/manufacturers and in some cases actual field tests by various ship owners.

None of the above topics are rocket science. Rightfully so we leave the actual development of engines, turbochargers and fuel injection systems to their respective manufacturers.  Enter the realm of proprietary issues, again with due respect to their principals, we find a need for independent, unbiased, test bed research to mate the various "after market" systems and approaches with simple 2 and 4 stroke engines resulting in "unbiased, independent data" that can be then used by a shipowner to make sound decisions and calculations with regards to the advantages and ROI of the respective systems.

How can we accomplish this in a timely manner and end the debate and speculation?

Generate support from the international maritime and land based power industry to fund and establish a  "not for profit" test, research and training center. Manufacturers of the systems would then present their wares for testing and evaluation and unbiased test results would be developed. As with any product that makes substantial claims I am sure there will be a few manufacturers who may not agree with the results, take it or leave it. With the boom in shipbuilding and shore based diesel power plants,  I am sure the major engine builders such as MAK, B&W or Wartsila would find the ability to donate a small bore common rail 2 (26cm) and 4 (20cm) stroke engine to the facility as well as the manufacturers of fuel handling and treatment equipment such as ALFALAVAL or Westfalia to cover their side of the equation.

When I see a local university invest $60 million in renovating a basketball arena and pay a sports coach $1 million plus a year salary I find it hard to imagine how a conscientious effort by the maritime and shore based power industry cannot generate $20-30 million to establish such a facility for the benfit of all concerned as well as an incentive for the next generation of engineers. I'm sure there would be a community somewhere that would be more than willing to donate some land as well as tax incentives for such a facility either in the US or abroad.

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