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Carbon-neutral liquid fuels: propelling shipping into a cleaner future
The route to decarbonisation through carbon-neutral-biomass generated and synthetic methane is being thoroughly explored, but the use of carbon-neutral liquid fuels in diesel engines has received less attention – until now.
With the internal combustion engine continuing to dominate marine propulsion far beyond 2050, development of an injection system that can handle a wide range of fuels with the potential to reduce shipping’s climate impact has been one of the focus areas of our technology development.
WinGD has now developed an injection system to accelerate its investigations into clean liquid fuels, which will go a long way towards reducing your carbon footprint.
Introducing the Fuel Flexible Injection system (FFI)
Through the long-running HERCULES series of collaborative projects, technologies holding the promise of reducing the environmental impact of shipping were developed between engine designers, universities and technology companies across Europe to advance the performance of large marine engines. The FFI development was an important contribution to the last project in this series, in which WinGD has led the design of an injection system that would facilitate the assessment of a future fuel mix that is not only comprised of both liquid and gas fuels, but also involves a considerably larger range of liquid fuel types.
“A fuel injection system which can inject everything from residual fuels to methanol would likely be able to cover most of the possible liquid fuel alternatives in the future.”
Dr. Andreas Schmid
General Manager, Technology Development
Increasing the spectrum of flow flexibility for improved capability
The wide range of properties of liquid fuels mean that different injection strategies are needed to ensure complete and efficient combustion of all these fuels. Alcohols, for example, have half the energy density of traditional marine fuels. To allow for fuels with different energy densities, the FFI system has a variable flow area.
When traditional liquid fuels like HFO or marine diesel oil are to be used, the needle opens only the lower row of orifices. Opening both rows of spray orifices increases the injection rate and allows the use of fuels with low energy density.
Cleaner fuels. Lower emissions.
As further investigation of low-carbon liquid fuels continues, we are well placed to identify the most likely fuels to help reduce the emissions of the shipping industry. The promising development of the FFI system has already highlighted the potential benefits of ethanol fuel, including lower NOx formation and smoke emissions.
Commercial injection concepts continue to evolve and FFI is an important basis to build upon. As the types of fuels that will be available in the future will become more well-defined, further improvements to the system are expected. Our experimental injection set-up has been calibrated for research, and as we shift towards performance testing with more tailored injection concepts, even greater results could be achieved that allow for the reduction of the amount of diesel fuel needed.
“[As] the injection system is the most challenging element of designing an engine for low-carbon fuels, this experimental design will give us an important head start.”
As part of the development process, a prototype system was evaluated, and spray morphology and combustion performance were assessed in in our Spray Combustion Chamber.
Using an experimental rig it allowed the effects of various nozzle designs to be observed by taking optical, pressure and temperature measurements. Our Switzerland based RTX-6 test engine was then equipped with the new system and used to burn ethanol and diesel fuel as two representatives of a broad fuel spectrum.
The new injection system was proven to work reliably on the injection rig and showed that switching from diesel to ethanol operation is possible at any engine load point.
One alcohol solution has been studied in an engine using the new injector so far, but as we continue to validate the new system, other possible fuel candidates are being considered. As the fuel injection strategy matures, the injection system will become an important enabler for the introduction of low-carbon alternative liquid fuels to help shipping meet IMO’s ambitions.
Compared with gas fuels, low-carbon liquid fuel research is a relatively new field and there are very few commercial marine engines burning these fuels today.
The new FFI project is an important step in identifying what modifications will be needed for diesel two-stroke engines to burn these liquid future fuels.
As many of the potential future fuels for the shipping industry are liquid, whether they are produced from biomass – or synthesized using renewable energy, we are on the path to a brighter, carbon neutral future.
For more information on our Fuel Flexible Injection concept, including initial results of tests with methanol and ethanol injection and combustion, download the full white paper.
Download White Paper
X-DF engines are designed to meet emission requirements far below the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Tier III limits, utilising a low cost, highly efficient and reliable low-pressure gas admission system.
The Fuel Flexible Injection system is just one aspect of our investigation into new liquid fuels.
Through the EU-funded FALCON project, we are developing a carbon-neutral alternative to HFO from lignin, a wood component found in trees and plants.
Promising gas fuels are also being examined. As one example, the company recently showed how volatile organic compounds (VOC) from oil cargoes can be burned in its dual-fuel engines.