Wärtsilä and partners to develop solutions for minimizing methane slip from LNG-fueled engines

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A consortium including Wärtsilä has secured European Union funding for the development of solutions to reduce methane slip from marine engines to advance the environmental and climate benefits of LNG as a vessel fuel.

The project – named Green Ray and coordinated by the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland – involves several shipping companies including the Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard, shipowner CMA CGA, classification society DNV GL, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, ship manager MSC Cruises Management, non-profit organisation Revolve Water and energy company Shell.

Running until 2027, the project will work on the development of on-engine technologies for low-pressure dual-fuel engines, for both two- and four-stroke, in addition to a novel aftertreatment concept. During the project, the technologies will be advanced to a high state of readiness and will include demonstrators being fitted on board two new-build vessels as well as one being retrofitted to an already existing ship. Each technology will be capable of operating on bio- or synthetic methane instead of fossil LNG.

Wärtsilä will be responsible for developing technology for low pressure four-stroke dual fuel engines that enables methane slip reduction. It will also enhance efficiency and lower operational costs at all engine loads. Wartsila’s technology is aimed at applications with the biggest four-stroke engines on the market, including cruise ships, ferries and gas carriers.

In addition to the aforementioned technology, Wartsila will also develop an on-engine technology for two-stroke engines based around a patented LNG injection system to reduce methane slip from tankers and container ships. The maritime technology company plans to demonstrate these during real-world scenarios in collaboration with the Green Ray partners.

“Methane slip has become an important factor in shipowners’ decisions about whether to use LNG fuel,” said Kati Lehtoranta, principal scientist, VTT. “With these promising technologies we aim to reduce the slip contributing directly to reduction of the total greenhouse gas emissions, opening this pathway to [an]even wider segment of the maritime market.”

Shell has developed its own methane abatement catalyst system which to date has been lab tested and scaled up to a field demonstration. The solution proved to be effective in greatly reducing methane slip by more than 90%, but also in handling typical compounds which can degrade the catalyst, via the inclusion of a guard bed.

“Shell’s climate ambition to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 will require us to explore a range of avenues that have the potential to help us, our partners, and customers to decarbonize the existing LNG value chain,” explained Alexander Boekhorst, vice president, gas processing and conversion technology, Shell. “We are continuously working to improve the value proposition of LNG through dedicated technology research, and we are keen to develop potential solutions to minimize methane slip at such a relevant project as Green Ray.”

“This research will allow us to build on the continuous improvements made in reducing methane slip from engines over the past 20 years,” said Sebastiaan Bleuanus, general manager, research coordination and funding, Wärtsilä Marine Power. “Taking these solutions for new-builds and retrofits to near commercial readiness will be an important step for the long-term viability of LNG as a marine fuel.”

To date, the project has received approximately €7m (US$7.4m) in funding from Horizon Europe.

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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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