«More than ever, future-proof investments are going to be key for ship operators involving multi-fuel engines and a variety of alternative fuels." Points out Dionissis Christodoulopoulos, Managing Director of MAN Energy Solutions Hellas Ltd. at maritimes.gr, answering about the choices of ship engines in the new ship constructions.
He points out that MAN Energy Solutions, in shipping, has publicly advocated a "maritime energy transition" for some time, which is based on the increased use of low-emission fuels. "For us, the path to decarbonising the maritime economy starts with fuel decarbonisation, which will be a natural step towards the development of Zero Emission Vessels."
It is also noted that MAN Energy Solutions has a track-record in developing engines running on alternative fuels, having developed the world’s first oceangoing ships driven respectively by LNG, methanol, ethane and LPG.
He talks about the one year of implementation of the IMO 2020 regulation, analyzing the initiatives of MAN Energy Solutions in order to prepare and help its engine-customers.
Regarding how MAN Energy Solutions managed the pandemic, Mr. Christdoulopoulos commented: ‘business as usual’
A comment where do you locate the difficulties raised from pandemic and how you manage them?
We are in an unprecedented situation. Organisationally, we reacted quickly and arranged for most of our office staff to work from home, and established health & safety guidelines for those whose role required them to work on-site. Our Corporate Corona Task Force also established a business continuity plan that prioritised work tasks in all departments and business units and treated problem areas as a matter of urgency. This tactic was a huge success and MAN Energy Solutions has remained open for ‘business as usual’ even in these trying times.
One year of implementation of the IMO regulation has been completed, which requires the percentage of sulfur (sulfur) in the fuel to be reduced to 0.5% from the current 3.5%. Initially, there was a strong concern about the use of low-sulfur fuels in ships' engines. What are your conclusions?
We saw already in December last year – when the new low-sulphur oil began to be used – an increased wearing in the liners, both for our mechanically and electronically controlled engines. That is, scuffing, where you have accelerated wearing – metal against metal – between the piston ring and liner.
This side-effect from the new low-sulphur oil was, however, fully expected. Accordingly, MAN Energy Solutions has prepared engine-customers for any complications that they may experience in the transition to the much less sulphurous bunker-oil. In September last year, we issued guidelines where it, among other things, recommended the use of cermet-coated piston rings that have a harder surface and that ensure controlled wearing under the new conditions. MAN Energy Solutions is also recommending new requirements for cylinder-lubricating oil that can compensate for the reduced corrosion caused by the lower sulphur content in the fuel oil, and that maintains controlled wearing on the liners.
We observe a waiting attitude of shipowners for new orders since they do not know what alternative technology they will turn to. What do you have to suggest?
In the short term, the crisis within the tourism industry will affect us in terms of orders for cruise ships, which is a sector that may take some years to recover. Some customers have requested postponements or a delay in deliveries as they themselves are suffering during the pandemic and do not know how their business will look like on the other side when normality returns.
More than ever, future-proof investments are going to be key for ship operators involving multi-fuel engines and a variety of alternative fuels. Already, our flexible ME-GI and ME-LGI engines enable operation on such clean fuels as LNG, ethane and methanol, which enables ship operators to choose the optimal fuels in terms of budget and environmental-friendliness as they emerge in the future.
There are already ships with dual fuel and LNG engines. Man Energy Solutions also creates an ammonia engine. What is the most suitable fuel after all?
We understand the need to work with a wide group of industry partners to achieve decarbonisation goals and accordingly joined the Getting to Zero Coalition in September 2019. In shipping, MAN Energy Solutions has publicly spoken out in favour of a ‘maritime energy transition’ for some time now, which draws on the increased use of low-emission fuels. For us, the path to decarbonising the maritime economy starts with fuel decarbonisation, which will be a natural step toward the development of Zero Emission Vessels.
Potential zero-carbon fuels include alternative fuels like synthetic methane, alcohol, green hydrogen and ammonia. In this respect, there’s naturally a bit of uncertainty because everybody realises the need for change, but it’s also clear that you don’t have just one solution.
As a potential zero-carbon fuel, ammonia is an interesting candidate. Indeed, the DNV-GL declared in 2019: “Ammonia is the most promising, carbon-neutral fuel option for newbuildings.”
When discussing future fuels, one thing is clean sulphur-free fuels but the CO2 footprint of such fuels also needs to be looked at. In this context, so-called power-to-X solutions where fuels are produced from sustainable energy sources are worth investigating.
The ammonia you have in the market today is CO2-free but based more on fossil fuel. Manufacturing green ammonia implies that you take electricity created by windmills and react hydrogen with nitrogen to produce ammonia. What’s interesting about this is that there is no carbon involved in the process, making it a completely carbon-free fuel.
There are certain barriers, however, for ammonia and green ammonia – as there are with green or synthetic methane – in that it’s relatively expensive, compared with fossil-based fuels. When talking about merchant shipping and the two-stroke business, solutions need to be business-viable.
MAN Energy Solutions has a convincing track-record in developing engines running on alternative fuels, having developed the world’s first oceangoing ships driven respectively by LNG, methanol, ethane and LPG.
We note that the two-stroke ammonia concept is an add-on to our electronic ME-engine and similar to our engine concepts for liquid gas injection propane (ME-LGIP) and liquid gas injection methanol (ME-LGIM).
The development of the LGI engine has already addressed challenges similar to those posed by ammonia – namely corrosion, toxicity and low flammability – and there would be little difference between an ammonia engine and the ME-LGIP/LGIM engines. In light of this, we aim to deliver the first ammonia-fuelled, two-stroke engine in 2024.
How do you prepare as engine builders/designers for the transitional period that we are admittedly going through until 2030 (improvement of energy efficiency by 40%) and 2050 (efforts to reduce up to 70%) in order to achieve these percentages?
In the ‘AHOY2050’ study recently commissioned by MAN Energy Solutions and the Fraunhofer Institute for Systems and Innovation Research, four scenarios provide a rough sketch of what the industry’s pathway to 2050 might look like. Potential outcomes – in regard to the industry’s future, technological development and greenhouse-gas mitigation efforts – vary greatly. Yet, both scenarios in which our industry manages to meet the IMO 2050 climate goals have one thing in common: their achievment is framed by stringent and global regulations driven by the IMO.
This is an essential insight. Currently there is an enormous will for change in the industry and momentum is building. As such, the timing is perfect for regulation to give it the final push and make decarbonisation financially viable. Left alone, the market cannot fix this.
The ideal conclusion for MAN Energy Solutions would be for the IMO to engage with the EU – and other, regional partners – to create a transparent, well-thought-through, global system that will drive the right behaviour and lead to the required investments in new technologies for this maritime energy transition.