Alfa Laval has taken a minority stake in three-year-old Rotterdam-based air lubrication technology company Marine Performance Systems
“The investment brings Alfa Laval full circle, since air lubrication technology for marine vessels was first pursued and patented by our founder Gustav de Laval in 1883,” said Alfa Laval Marine Division president Sameer Kalra. “The technology did not result in any product in his time, but our founder’s vision has new importance today. Air lubrication will smooth the marine industry’s path to a sustainable future.”
Creating a layer of air bubbles under a vessel’s hull reduces friction between the ship and the water, lowering fuel consumption and associated greenhouse gas emissions. Air lubrication technology from Marine Performance Systems produces bubbles with fluidics, reducing fuel consumption by 8-12% at a vessel’s normal service speed, according to the company. Air lubrication is one of the technologies being considered by shipowners to improve vessel efficiency to comply with IMO’s Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) and Energy Efficiency Existing Ship Index (EEXI).
“Our FluidicAL technology enables truly effective air lubrication, with immediate environmental benefits and substantial savings for shipowners,” said Frode Lundsteen Hansen, who founded Marine Performance Systems in 2018 with innovators Pieter Kapteijn and Fulko Roos. “Alfa Laval shares our belief that this technology will facilitate the transition to green shipping,” he added.
“Fleets cannot be replaced overnight, so existing vessels will need to rely on clean-burning fuels to lower their emissions,” Mr Lundsteen Hansen explained. “In a low-margin industry where fuel represents up to 60% of a shipowner’s costs, the premium price of those fuels is a heavy burden. With very small means, air lubrication can provide significant relief.”
FluidicAL technology requires no structural modifications or vessel recertification, making it well suited for retrofits and newbuilds. Compatible with any vessel size and any fuel type, it comprises evenly spaced bands of oscillators under the vessel’s hull. Using high-efficiency fluidics, each oscillator produces tens of thousands of microbubbles per second, creating a stable, uniform layer of air that significantly reduces friction between the hull and the water beneath.
In late 2020, a pilot installation on the Dutch-flag general cargo vessel M/V Tharsis yielded positive results, said Mr Lundsteen Hansen. The 88-m, 2012-built vessel is managed by Tharsis CV out of the Netherlands.
“With our FluidicAL solution in place, M/V Tharsis made 25 controlled runs in loaded and ballast conditions. As expected, there was a 60% reduction in specific drag over hull’s flat area, which meant considerably less fuel was consumed. Not only was there no impact on stability or manoeuvrability, the sailing was also noticeably smoother.”
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