Eliminating energy waste through ship propulsion automation

Most vessels currently sailing the world’s oceans are wasting energy, no matter how sophisticated the machinery is on board

Inadequacies in the overall management of vessel speed and fuel consumption are to blame. Usually, a vessel is given a speed or rev/ min order, which it maintains throughout the changing conditions along the route, with the result being varying power and wasted energy.

A commercial vessel is usually working towards achieving a specified estimated time of arrival (ETA).

To achieve optimal fuel consumption, keeping a real time eye on the vessel’s output power and adjusting propulsive parameters according to the vessel’s specific operational best practice, is required throughout a voyage.

A vessel equipped with a controllable pitch propeller can present much wasted energy in operation. These vessels typically run on a fixed propeller rev/min and let the angle (pitch) of the propeller blades dictate the propulsive power, or in a combinator mode with static setting of different pitch and rev/min.

As most vessels rarely need full engine power, and operate in varying load and weather conditions, they consistently operate with lower pitch, which has been shown to be a large source of hydrodynamic energy waste.
Therefore, there is a lot of potential to save fuel by letting the two parameters, pitch and rev/ min, be separately controlled while aiming to produce the most amount of propeller thrust for the least required amount of power. Operating in this way is also likely to improve the specific fuel consumption of the vessel’s main engine.

The development of hardware to automate the real time monitoring and control of propulsion parameters was a challenge adopted by a group of Swedish innovators with extensive experience in shipbuilding, naval architecture, propulsion and marine control system technology.

The result of research and proprietary work conducted by the group was a technology called ‘FuelOpt’, which was launched onto the market in 2012 by Gothenburg-based Lean Marine.

Lean Marine’s FuelOpt technology is claimed to be a unique control system that is installed as an addition to the existing traditional systems on board. The technology optimises a vessel’s performance in real time.

Whenever the vessel is in transit (and using most of its power for propulsion) FuelOpt will step in and subtract costly variations in speed and power, due to human operational factors and optimise propulsion parameters, such as pitch and rev/min for maximum efficiency. The technology can be installed into any vessel during operations in just a few days and no time off-hire is required.

“FuelOpt offers owners the ability to have the cruise control system found in their cars, installed on board their vessels,” claimed Lean Marine’s managing director, Nicklas Karlsson.

Dynamic tuning

In addition, in the case of a controllable pitch vessel, FuelOpt acts as a dynamic tuning system for the propulsion machinery, continuously ensuring it is tuned for the least possible fuel consumption.

Lean Marine’s product portfolio is based on two separate technologies. In addition to the FuelOpt technology, the company offers a data analysis tool called Fleet Analytics, which allows for both verification of fuel use reduction results achieved by FuelOpt and to increase the shipowner’s knowledge of their vessel operations.

Fleet Analytics incorporates a large amount of sensor data from the vessel to give the user a powerful overview of the vessels situation and performance via a clear web-based interface.

“With access to all these data sources on the vessel we’re also helping the crew create very quick and powerful reports for many different purposes. Internal voyage reports and the EU mandated MRV report being two examples,” said Karlsson.

Since 2012, Lean Marine has installed FuelOpt on nearly 100 vessels, with the milestone 100th installation due to take place this year.

Bergen-based chemical tanker owner/operator Rederiet Stenersen, has installed FuelOpt and Fleet Analytics across its entire fleet of 15 vessels, which comprises tankers already operating efficiently by design.

John Stenersen, said: “Simply, we’ve seen that the fuel optimisation system has delivered the fuel savings promised. In addition to the automated fuel saving, we can now also follow up on our vessels using Lean Marine’s powerful Fleet Analytics tool.”

As the fuel optimisation system is used continuously during vessel transits, FuelOpt has now clocked up almost 4,000 days in operation across the Stenersen fleet.

With a previously estimated saving potential of up to two tonnes per 24 hours, LeanMarine has, to date, helped Stenersen save in excess of 8,000 tonnes of fuel.




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