Shipowner concerns about the impact of emissions abatement technologies on turbochargers are leading to retrofit opportunities for suppliers
For Napier Turbochargers, two different trends are driving sales of retrofit turbochargers and spare parts. The company, which specialises in four-stroke engine turbochargers, has seen new business improving too, but emissions and lifecycle cost challenges are having a bigger impact beyond first sales.
“As in other sectors, the biggest factor influencing the business at the moment is emissions,” says Napier Turbochargers head of sales and marketing Steven Hudson.
“A lot of operators are currently concerned with the ability to meet the introduction of the new emission legislation and are looking to install various technologies which may have impacts on the current turbocharger match,” he says. “Therefore, efforts are being put in place to both retrofit the current turbocharger to overcome these effects, or to match them with a modified or upgraded engine.”
These changes are not surprising given that some of the treatments to reduce SOx and NOx emissions rely on redirecting the flow of exhaust gases. But IMO’s sulphur cap could have an even bigger impact on turbochargers, Mr Hudson believes. The concerns over fuel blends, including potential contaminations, could lead to fuel quality concerns that could have an effect on turbocharging as well as the fuel supply system.
“The effects of low-sulphur fuel have yet to filter down into the service life of turbochargers,” he says. “Although the constituents of the fuel are better for the operation of the engine, it also may bring its own challenges.”
Being prepared and well supported for these in-service challenges is becoming more important as ships lengthen their periods without servicing turbochargers – another trend that Mr Hudson has noticed of late.
“The concerns over fuel blends, including potential contaminations, could lead to fuel quality concerns that could have an effect on turbocharging as well as the fuel supply system”
“Ship operators are now taking the service life of the turbocharger to the maximum, or in some cases extending the life beyond the recommended interval, which is having an impact on spare part sales,” he says. “In some cases the requests have been made to extend intervals by the engine manufacturers, based on feedback from their customers.”
At the SMM exhibition in Germany in 2016, Napier Turbochargers launched its NT series. The NT1-14A model remains its largest capacity unit, covering engine outputs between 5MW and 8MW. Its three-unit NT1 range offers the highest pressure ratios available for this type of turbocharger, at 6.0.
Given the market trends, Napier’s current focuses on maintainability and enhancing its service network makes sense. Mr Hudson reports that ease of maintenance has a strong focus within Napier to ensure that turbocharger service lives are extended and matched to the life of the engine. The other consideration is to design the turbocharger to ensure minimum down time for the operator.
“This was demonstrated as far back as the 1980s with the cartridge concept which allowed operators to exchange the servable parts without having to break into the exhaust system or employ highly skilled engineers to complete the exchange,” he says.
The service network for Napier continues to grow in line with its customers’ demands and the operation of vessels. Napier has close links with OEM workshops and will continue this collaboration for the future, says Mr Hudson, giving further options to the operators of Napier turbochargers.
Napier offers an overhaul and remanufacturing service at its factory in the UK, available for its NT series and many of its NA turbochargers. It also offers an exchange service, under which it stocks a matching unit to a customer’s own turbocharger, which it will swap over when needed and restore the worn unit ready for future use. Napier’s overhauls will only use its OEM components and certificates of conformity and authenticity can be provided.