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Wärtsilä Q&A


main source of power, showed outstanding performances with no sign of fuel cell degradation. The next phase, currently under development, has the ambitious target of designing, building, testing and qualifying a low emission and efficient hybrid energy system, with energy storage for marine propulsion.


Future focus on flexibility


Grulio Tirelli, Wärtsliä’s marketing and application development manager


Q: Do you share the belief of many others that a shift from oil to gas power for most commercial ships is likely over the next decade?


A: Natural Gas is an important energy source today and its attraction as a marine fuel relates both to emissions reductions and potentially positive economics. The first sector of the marine fleet to switch to natural gas is most likely short-sea vessels operating in emission control areas such as the Baltic Sea and the US coast. Fleet owners and operators are today focusing on flexibility in adapting to volatile market conditions: the ability to switch between different fuels – natural gas or traditional bunker fuels – according to bunker prices and local emissions regulations represents an important added value. With this in mind, we believe that dual-fuel technology is the ideal combination to meet market requirements.


Q: LNG has many distinct advantages over conventional bunker fuels, but it is still carbon- based and only reduces CO2 emissions by around 20%. Which other technologies offer the most potential over the next ten years if ships are to be powered by non- carbon-based fuels?


Wärtsilä views the future , shares his thoughts on ship propultion over the next decade.


A: Even if renewable energies develop quickly, today’s society is still widely dependent on carbon fuels. Our opinion is that this situation is unlikely to change in a short-term timeframe. Natural gas represents a short- to medium-term step towards greener power generation where CO2, NOx, SOx and particulate matter formation is drastically reduced.


The extended R&D program


Wärtsilä is actually bringing forward is focused on the development of new and alternative sources for power generation. Development of portfolio technologies combined with optimisation of vessel efficiency bring us today to focus on total vessel performances, from its design to the end of the operating life.


Q: You are closely involved in fuel cell R&D and active ship- based trials, such as the Viking Lady. How is this work progressing and, if fuel cells offer potential, what is the likely timescale?


A: The Fellowship Viking Lady Project has today completed its first testing period where the main target has been to understand and highlight system performances and possible fuel cell deterioration in a marine environment. The complete system, where natural gas is the


Q: The jury appears to stay out on the performance and potential offered by scrubber technology. What further advances and developments are needed to convince the sceptics, and do you foresee the wide-scale adoption of scrubber technology on new and existing vessels?


A: Sulphur emissions are today regulated through the cap on fuel sulphur content. This raises operational challenges relating to the worldwide availability and price of low sulphur fuels. Scrubber technology is an attractive alternative, especially for retrofit applications. Existing vessels will only have to meet worldwide SOx limits, and will not be forced to comply with imminent NOx restrictions. Many different case studies have shown very interesting payback period for scrubber installations, in some cases even shorter than one year.


Q: What potential development under way in your R&D programme excites you most, and what could it mean for shipping in 2020?


A: One sector in which Wärtsilä is strongly focused today relates to research into technologies which could enable new sources of energy to be used for ship propulsion and power generation. This initiative is combined with ongoing research into finding efficiency improvements in design and operation of a vessel through state-of-the art ship design technology and voyage energy optimisation. 


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