The best in environmental solutions

-- FROM THE FULL PICTURE MAGAZINE -- In its quest to offer the best in environmental solutions for the shipping industry, Kongsberg Maritime has teamed up with AVL to offer an engine performance monitoring system that could lead to savings of millions of pounds for large fleets plying their trade over the world's oceans.

In December 2007, Kongsberg Maritime received a call from some senior figures at Austrian power train and instrumentation company, AVL. That call set in motion a project that has now resulted in an 18-month environmental programme centred on Höegh Autoliners' 6,100 vehicle capacity car carrier, the Detroit. Known as the Green Ship Project, Kongsberg will operate as the technology integrator, AVL will provide its unique engine sensor as part AVL's engine performance & optimisation system (AVL EPOS) while the Höegh Detroit will act as the testing environment.

Improve engine performance

With the increasing costs of fuels – combined with the taxation charges for emissions for CO2, NOX and SOX – the demands from the market for ways to analyse and, in turn, improve an engine's performance have been growing rapidly. But the ability to create fuel savings of even a few per cent, which can equate to savings of tens of thousands of pounds a year for a ship, by being able to run an engine at optimum performance, has in the past been difficult to achieve. Engines are repaired and recalibrated during a service, but they often quickly drift away from expected performance levels on a voyage and the necessary on-board adjustments are not made.

AVL had for some time been working on developing a new product – under the name AVL EPOS - that monitors engine performance upon ships. Kongsberg Maritime had been seeking to undertake a similar project and as AVL had already successfully moved some way down the path to achieving this aim, it seemed right for the two companies to pool their considerable complementary resources in an attempt to meet the growing demand for environmental products.

High temperature sensors

Until now, the greatest barrier to overcoming the challenge of continuous real-time monitoring of an engine had been to produce sensors that can cope with the high temperatures experienced in an engine. Quartz crystal sensors have been used until now, but they are unable to perform effectively at temperatures of over 275 °C. AVL, however, has recently made a major breakthrough by being able to grow gallium orthophosphate crystals for high performance combustion sensors that can withstand temperatures of well in excess of 600 °C – just the sort of temperatures experienced in the cylinder of your average vessel engine.

Dr. Ruediger Teichmann, AVL's global business segment manager, combustion measurement division, believes the success in growing these new crystals was the starting point for a successful partnership with Kongsberg maritime. However, other factors have helped the relationship to swiftly develop. "We are very proud of the work we have done in being able to develop these new crystal sensors. Because this is a world first, many people were sceptical of this new technology – Kongsberg among them. However, their knowledge of the shipping sector meant they understood the value of such a technology – particularly as they had been working in-house to develop something similar. They recognise and, as such, are as excited as us about the incredible benefits that AVL EPOS could well bring to shipping operations over the coming years."

The need to closely monitor an engine and its performance is vital to any ship. Unfortunately, this has historically been a very time-consuming activity and the results difficult to analyse. Under the present methods, a member of the ship's crew – usually the chief engineer – is charged with checking the ship's engine by monitoring with a hand-held sensor various points– such as the cylinders – to check them for, among other things, heat, pressure and vibration. This ought to be undertaken regularly, e. g. at least once a day but, in reality happens much less often. The results also need to be carefully analysed to see whether the engine's performance is in any way below optimum levels. Again, interpretation of these results – which could lead to pro-active steps to improve it – needs specialist skills which are often lacking aboard ship.

Constant monitoring

AVL's approach is completely different and – when combined with Kongsberg Maritime's control systems experience - will bring about a sea change in engine performance management techniques. Dr. Hinrich Mohr explains. "Unlike previous systems, our sensors are fitted to points on the engines and remain there throughout their lifetime. This means that they are able to continuously monitor the engine's performance and constantly provide detailed analysis of the situation whenever required.

Morten Olsen, Sales & Marketing Manager of Kongsberg Maritime Europe and America, is particularly impressed with the software analysis tool that AVL has developed as it will simplify the task of managing the engine's performance. "Everybody is well aware that the task of engine management is becoming ever more difficult – a result of factors such as a lack of trained staff, ever more complex systems and the workload of seafarers. But, with AVL EPOS each cylinder is monitored via a Windows-based graphical user interface and uses a traffic light system, which is easy to view and swift to interpret. The software behind display is complex, but the interface is child's play. It is a very impressive solution to what, to date, has been a thorny problem."

When operating, each sensor gathers data and the information is interpreted and displayed through this unique traffic light system. If everything is performing within defined parameters, the traffic light is green. If the signal moves outside those parameters, the traffic light then changes to orange. This means that there is potential for a failure and the specific part of the engine demands closer attention. If a signal shows up on the traffic light system as red, this is a critical situation that needs to be dealt with immediately.

Dr. Hinrich Mohr, AVL's product manager of system integration, large engines, says that monitoring of an engine using this system is simple enough to be undertaken by any number of on-board personnel after a short amount of training. "This gives the crew increased flexibility as the role of monitoring – whilst always under the chief engineer – can be shared among a number of crew. However, the beauty of the system is that remote monitoring can also be performed. All the data can be sent via Inmarsat back to shore where the information can be even more closely analysed, monitored and, where necessary, remedial action taken."

The data can be set to measure once a day for example, but different time parameters can be set depending on the part in question or whether there is a need to monitor a particular circumstance more closely.

AVL's strength is its complete understanding of what's required to build and maintain a highly robust engine performance & optimisation system. Kongsberg Maritime brings its knowledge of automation and control systems and integrates it into one easy-to-install package. The result is an environmental solution never seen before in the shipping industry.

Previously AVL's strength regarding online cylinder pressure indicating has been mainly in gas-based, land-based power systems, but their world leading competence in this sector was no bar to their development of similar monitoring systems for vessels utilizing heavy oil. As Mohr explains: "The maritime sector has, until now, been a very small part of our business. But, through our work with Kongsberg Maritime, we have come to recognise that there is a major requirement for highly reliable engine monitoring and management tools that are simple to use. I think we have a great partnership – our engine and sensing technology know-how and Kongsberg's shipping sector and systems integration knowledge. I truly believe the opportunities are limitless."

Olsen agrees. "The term unique is, unfortunately, used all too often nowadays. However, when it comes to engine performance and optimisation, this term really does apply. There are a number of companies in the market today that provide sensors – though to nothing like the capability of those produced by AVL. There are also companies that have software analysis and data acquisition tools. However, it is only this offering from Kongsberg Maritime and AVL that is a fully integrated and highly robust solution that can interpret what is happening on-board ship and relay it to shore in real-time.

The final piece in the EPOS jigsaw puzzle was the result of Kongsberg Maritime's relationship with Höegh. For nearly two decades, Kongsberg has been supplying a range of automated instrumentation tools and control systems for various vessels in Höegh's global fleet of 67 ships– which includes LNG tankers and car carriers. Kongsberg Maritime and AVL have now teamed up with Höegh to undertake a trial of AVL EPOS aboard the Höegh Detroit. Fitting of the equipment was undertaken in Holland over a week in mid-July.

A number of engineering team crew were given training in use of the system and the vessel is now back in service in the Far East. The engine performance & optimisation system - AVL EPOS V1.0 - is now live and is being used to analyse how the engine is running. Data is not currently being sent automatically back to shore for analysis, though a switch over from the present manual system will take place shortly. Though the project has been slated to last eighteen months it is hoped that initial results will come in early next year and will enable Kongsberg to roll out AVL EPOS as part of its environmental offerings to both Höegh and other the shipping operators during 2009.

As the project progresses a raft of additional parameter will be added to Höegh's green ship, including monitoring of such factors as the vessel's trim speed, course and even the weather conditions. All these elements, when added together, will be able to provide a full picture to the vessel's condition and can then be used to analyse and therefore vary a number of parameters which could well make vital additional fuel savings.

Who are AVL?

AVL is the world's largest privately-owned and independent company for the development of powertrain systems with internal combustion engines as well as instrumentation and test systems from the smallest chainsaw to the biggest propulsion engine. Headquartered in Graz, Austria, the company has over 4,300 employees, over half of which are based in 45 representative and affiliate offices outside of Austria.

The company is primarily involved in the development of powertrain systems and is a competent partner to the engine and automotive industry. In addition AVL develops and markets the simulation methods which are necessary for the development work. Additionally, it works on engine instrumentation and test systems, comprises all the instruments and systems required for powertrain and vehicle testing. It is said that its extensive work in Formula One motor racing means that whichever team wins a grand prix event, AVL has had some involvement in that team's success.

The company has recognized the growing demand for engine management systems for the shipping industry and is partnering with Kongsberg Maritime to extend its competence in this area.Turnover in 2007 for AVL amounted to some 625 million Euros.