Gavin Lipsith on what will define CIMAC World Congress 2019 and the industry
The papers presented at this year’s CIMAC World Congress, which convenes this week in Vancouver, will set the tone for the next three years of engine development (at least) and influence the technologies that will emerge on ships. Reviewers have had to wade through unprecedented numbers of submissions: this time there were more than two entries for every place, more than double the usual surplus.
A 10-hour flight to Canada’s west coast allowed plenty of time to peruse the programme and plot a path through the (somewhat intimidating) four-day, multi-stream technical agenda. Here are what I see as the four main themes.
New fuels: At CIMAC’s Cascades event late last year, Wärtsilä presented the results of its experiments introducing hydrogen into dual-fuelled engines. Others are on the case. Anglo-Belgian Corp will present its own results on hydrogen and methanol tests and Winterthur Gas & Diesel will discuss an injection concept that can handle both diesel and alcohol fuels. A highlight will be a panel devoted to low-carbon propulsion that will cover advances in power-to-X – using electricity to make synthetic, carbon-free liquid and gas fuels – and a renewable methane project in shipping.
IMO 2020: The sulphur cap is not occupying engine designers’ time as much as future carbon-free fuels – although there will be further exploration of how low-sulphur fuels affect cylinder liners from both the big two-stroke designers, who still hold contrasting views on this subject. Oil, lubricant and additive companies will push the sulphur agenda at CIMAC, presenting experience of 0.5% sulphur fuels and strategies for minimising engine condition concerns. The event will provide both the forum and the ammunition for shipowners to ask the right questions of oil and lubricant suppliers and engine designers.
Methane slip: With low-pressure dual-fuel engines gaining market share, the issue of reducing methane slip (not an issue for high-pressure engines) is becoming more important. This is reflected by a session in which four presenters will show research into new catalytic reduction techniques targeting methane. Cost and operational impact will be key – a major advantage of low-pressure engines is that they do not require aftertreatment for NOx. If they need aftertreatment for methane instead, would that benefit be neutered?
Hybrid propulsion: Talk of batteries and electric motors were once sacrilege at CIMAC. But engine designers and researchers today are deeply involved in electric propulsion. CIMAC offers a chance for discussions on configurations and control strategies, as well as a study from MAN Energy Solutions on the potential for batteries on deepsea cargo ships, the result of which was covered in brief at Riviera Maritime Media’s Sulphur Cap 2020 Conference in May.
For the next two or three decades at least, electrification will accompany rather than replace combustion. This recognition, and the efforts of both engine designers and electrical propulsion specialists to optimise the process, will be vital to take carbon out of deepsea shipping.
For the next four days and beyond I will bring you exclusive reports on the key discussions, both expected and unexpected, on our website.