RH Marine and Bakker Sliedrecht announce powerplant for emission-free sailing

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Bakker Sliedrecht and RH Marine have developed an electrical system that will enable vessels to sail on methanol and other zero-emission fuels. The project aims to enhance the efficiency, reliability and safety of vessels.

As part of a maritime consortium, the two sister companies and 20 other partners have so far received millions in government subsidies for research over the next four years as part of the MENENS (Methanol as an Energy Step Toward Zero-Emission Dutch Shipping) program. The consortium comprises shipowners, dredging and offshore companies, research institutes, yacht builders, shipyards and suppliers.

Through the MENENS program, members intend to accelerate the use of methanol as a low-carbon fuel in the Dutch shipping sector to reduce CO2 emissions. With methanol regarded as a feasible fuel for large-scale shipping and net-zero emissions, the consortium plans to retrofit two vessel types with methanol fuel systems to assess the viability. It will also carry out studies on six different future use cases with different operational profiles.

Bakker Sliedrecht and RH Marine will design an updated electrical system for use within dredging and offshore vessels, yachts and naval vessels.

MENENS coordinator, Fugro, aims to have its Fugro Pioneer survey vessel sailing on methanol fuel by 2023. The company intends to use the vessel as a test ship. A virtual field lab for the testing and validation of technologies will also be set up by Bakker Sliedrecht, RH Marine, the Maritime Research Institute Netherlands (MARIN) and TNO.

With conventional vessel electrical systems running on AC power, the entire powerplant on board the vessel will be designed as a DC network. This is because it can’t achieve the same dynamic response in the engines with methanol as it can with diesel, so batteries or supercapacitors are used to compensate.

“The powerplant reacts differently to methanol than to diesel or LNG. In order to guarantee a good performance, we must design a powerplant to which you can connect a fuel cell, a battery and a methanol ICE generator,” explained Arend Van der Velde, head of technology and innovation at Bakker Sliedrecht.

By utilizing a DC network, lower power losses can be achieved. Currently, converters or frequency drives convert AC to DC and DC back to AC. In a DC network, the inverter only needs to convert the electricity to AC once for the machines and devices.

“In the new design, fewer conversions are needed. The fewer the converters, the less the power losses. A DC network also offers opportunities to save space and to make the powerplant lighter,” explained Despoina Mitropoulou, the manager of power systems at RH Marine.

To ensure that the new system is compatible with future fuels such as hydrogen, it has been designed so that components can be added at a later stage.

“We want to design a system that is as independent as possible of the future fuel source,” commented Mitropoulou. “For example, besides methanol engines or fuel cells, it must also be able to run on hydrogen engines or fuel cells as well.”

Digitalization will enable more data to be collected and analyzed to give insight into how the new and updated systems will operate.

“Thus, we can design a system that is smarter, safer, more efficient and more reliable,” concluded Mitropoulou.

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After spending six years working as a mechanic for various motorsport and high-end performance car companies, Callum joined UKi Media & Events in February 2020 as an assistant editor. In this role he uses his vast practical knowledge and passion for automotive to produce informative news pieces for multiple vehicle-related sectors.

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