ABB Marine’s Propulsion Reduces Fuel by some 22%

Responding to the need for greener, high-efficiency solutions in the shipbuilding market, ABB Marine & Ports set out to design a novel propulsion concept. VTT provided R&D support in developing the ABB Dynafin™️, an industry-first electric propulsion concept that breaks new ground in vessel efficiency.

ABB Marine & Ports supplies technologies that drive the evolution of sustainable shipping with electrical propulsion, data-driven decision support and integrated solutions for ship and shore.

Around 90% of global trade is carried by ships that contribute almost 3% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. If no action is taken, shipping could be responsible for up to 13 percent of global emissions by 2050. The International Maritime Organization has set the goal to cut annual greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared to levels in 2008.

Achieving this target requires major advances in fuel technology, alternative energy sources and propulsion technology. Currently the maximum power delivered to the propeller is around 70% and this can be significantly improved with new propulsor innovations and lower fuel consumption.

ABB has been a pioneer in developing propulsion systems, with its innovative Azipod® system generated already in the late 1980s. Since then, the company has collected over 30 years of experience in propulsion technology. VTT has been one of its supporting research partners during these past decades, providing expertise in hydrodynamics to support product development at ABB.

Strength in analytical modelling

Considering that propulsion systems featuring screw propellers such as the Azipod® have reached their limits in terms of radical efficiency improvements, ABB set out to investigate possibilities for novel, high-efficiency propulsion concepts at the end of 2013. Among the 69 concepts considered over the following two to three years was a solution with individually controlled vertical blades that evolved into what is now known as ABB Dynafin™️.

VTT was among ABB’s main supporting partners in developing the concept further because of considers VTT’s ability to create an analytical model of the propeller’s operation as one of their strengths.

VTT provided expertise in the hydrodynamics of propulsion systems with extensive knowledge of the marine industry, VTT had analytical tools that allowed ABB to calculate all the variables affecting operating efficiency. There is not enough computational capacity in the world to calculate in detail all the parametres affecting the design of this kind of propulsor. Thus engineers must have simplified yet powerful tools that can quickly present efficiency coefficients under varying situations.

Besides providing us with expertise in the hydrodynamics of propulsion systems, and extensive knowledge of the marine industry, VTT had analytical tools that allowed us to calculate all the variables affecting operating efficiency.

From theory to model-scale testing

During the ABB Dynafin™️ development project, VTT provided ABB with:

  • A strong theoretical understanding of propulsion technology
  • Unique analytical tools developed specifically for the project
  • Additional resources for advanced computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations
  • Open-water and self-propulsion tests in model scale

Teemu Manderbacka, Sustainable Shipping Research Team Leader at VTT is pleased with ABB’s partnership.

“Our aim is to closely listen to the needs of the customer and their views to better assist in the future development of marine technology. This project has been especially rewarding in delivering such significant results that can contribute directly to the pressing need for limiting greenhouse gas emissions,”Manderbacka said.

Enhanced efficiency, manoeuvrability and reliability

In further in-depth studies, including self-propulsion testing and lake trials to confirm manoeuvring capabilities, the conclusion was that achieving extremely high open-water efficiencies of up to 85% per cent was possible with the new solution. The novel concept can provide up to a 22% efficiency improvement compared to existing propulsion systems in the same power range.

Benefits of the ABB Dynafin™️ concept for owners and operators of vessels include:

  • High efficiency
  • Excellent manoeuvrability
  • High reliability and easy maintenance
  • High onboard comfort level and sustainable operations.

According to ABB, following the highly promising results and encouraging feedback from customers, an ongoing full-scale development project aims to further enhance and productise the concept during coming years.

Photo: VTT

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