A full vessel approach could change the way energy is managed on board ships, delivering measurable advantages and tangible savings for vessel owners and operators, writes Royston technical manager Shervin Younessi
More effective monitoring of a vessel’s carbon footprint is becoming increasingly necessary as pressures to reduce the environmental impact of global shipping continue to build and operators seek smarter ways to reduce operational costs throughout ship and fleet lifecycles.
Issues revolving around the IMO 2020 sulphur cap are also placing a growing emphasis on the requirement to enhance ship management and secure efficiencies. So, while maintaining drag-reducing hulls, propeller improvements and other initiatives can play a seminal role in achieving savings, it is also important to set initial benchmarks against which the impact these technologies have on energy and fuel usage can be accurately and fully assessed.
In the face of such challenges, developing new digital marine technologies capable of improving performance monitoring through whole vessel energy management (VEM) are increasingly gaining traction. In particular, with the marine sector moving inexorably towards digitalisation and the greater use of intelligent on-board data, monitoring energy flows around a ship to better manage performance is becoming essential to advancing overall energy efficiency on board.
As a result, we are already seeing significant progress on enhancements to vessel energy performance monitoring being achieved by combining marine sensor technology with onboard data capture refinements, alongside cloud computing and data storage solutions.
A holistic approach to vessel energy management essentially involves developing a systematic assessment of the different flows of energy across a ship’s entire operation. In this way, the direct and indirect links of energy consumption and distribution for different modes of operation can be captured, measured and understood, enabling effective steps to be taken to enable a vessel to operate at peak performance levels and in doing so, maximise energy efficiency.
Although the approach can be seen as generic, allowing it to be applied to a diverse range of vessel types to secure tangible benefits, it is a complex matter, impacting on the diverse yet inter-related energy systems on board vessels. These can range from propulsion systems and auxiliary power engines, through refrigeration systems to HVAC configurations. In addition, weather and sea-state also come into play, impacting on operational performance.
To understand holistic vessel energy management better, diesel power specialist Royston has been involved in a collaborative research and innovation project with Newcastle University’s marine engineering department. The project, which saw data from sea trials used to evaluate different vessel energy flows and identify the most effective control and monitoring systems needed to optimise performance, pushed the boundaries around concepts for advanced systems to monitor energy usage throughout an entire ship.
It has examined the complexities of developing a system for monitoring energy usage throughout an entire vessel, ensuring that all systems needed to operate it are running at optimum levels and within environmental rules. The project focused on examining energy flow associated with seagoing vessels, such as tugs, offshore support vessels and ferries.
The digital era is driving the integration of sensor technologies on board vessels, converting different forms of signal into a digital format that can be exported conveniently for further processing. Processing engine and energy data requires specialist engineering knowledge to ensure the appropriate analysis or data correlation is applied to the raw data. This systematic processing of data leads to full transparency in real-time data display and contributes to predictive analysis.
Some of the energy data collected on the vessel can be directly processed for display on board the vessel to enable crew to make direct and immediate changes when needed. However, the vast quantity (and particularly longer-term) data is transmitted and stored onshore for analysis by the shipowner or operator, who can then use the information to monitor and manage changes in fleet operations.
As a sensor-based system, VEM can provide real-time information about energy distribution around a vessel. It can also provide a modular platform for shipwide energy flow monitoring and usage – the technology can ensure onboard systems are operating in line with environmental best practices.
In addition, generating raw data, when coupled with other external data such as weather information, provides a rich database that reflects the true state of the vessel. Subsequent processing will then provide improved decision-making tools for optimal operations.
Enhanced knowledge of energy flow architecture, and the relative proportions of energy consumed during the different operations and within each system or component, point the way to greater understanding and more informed decision-making capabilities around improving energy efficiency and, ultimately, fuel consumption and vessel design.
Sophisticated vessel energy-mapping methodology enables a systematic analysis of energy flow around a vessel to be carried out, with a comparison of the power generated and how it is consumed by different functions and operations.
For example, an analysis of the distribution of energy in project trials involving a tug revealed overall energy losses of up to 61%.
While holistic vessel energy management enables data from various sources to be converted into usable intelligence that can build into an effective energy management plan to aid vessel efficiency, it is apparent that vessel owners and operators will continue to look at cutting their carbon footprint and smarter fleet operations to secure a more sustainable shipping industry.
Against this backdrop, developing VEM is an important element in the escalation of marine digitisation, pushing us ever closer to ‘intelligent’ ships that are arrayed with smart sensors to monitor every element of operations and designed for optimal performance in every situation. It is clear that the vision of an enhanced energy management capability is a powerful concept that could rapidly transform the future fortunes of fleet operations as new products and associated technologies become increasingly available.