Marine emissions regulations are bringing a focus on turbocharging and air management that could offer new opportunities for suppliers
It is rare to hear someone enthuse about the state of shipping these days, but for MAN Energy Solutions vice president and head of turbocharger sales Ralph Klaunig, it’s a good time to be in the turbocharger business. Not because sales are particularly strong – although Mr Klaunig says that MAN’s relatively recent decision to sell its products to third-party enginebuilders is paying dividends. Rather, he believes that the emissions regulations that many bemoan are putting the spotlight back on turbocharging.
“With these regulations turbocharging becomes more and more important,” he says. “You need enough air in your combustion chamber and in the past turbocharging was not highly sophisticated. Now we can really push efficiency to the limits with two-stage turbocharging, new materials, new methods of design and new NOx Tier III systems.”
Mr Klaunig describes MAN as the clear market leader in two-stroke turbocharging, with around 30M operating hours and an installed base of around 2,000 units, of which 10-20% are on marine engines. The company has also developed an electrical turbo blower to give a kick-start to exhaust gas recirculation (when trying to meet Tier III NOx limits) and avoid the exhaust pressure drops some ship operators have experienced.
Other improvements will be needed as the emissions agenda deepens. With this in mind, MAN has invested €50M (US$56M) in a new dedicated test and research centre at its Augsburg production site – the biggest investment ever made at MAN’s historic headquarters. The centre will open early next year and, says Mr Klaunig, shows a high level of commitment from parent company Volkswagen Group to the shipping industry.
The research centre will help MAN prepare for important launches over the next couple of years, including a new series of radial turbochargers and some new frame sizes to join its latest family, the TCT series.
The new TCT range of two-stroke turbochargers is designed to make maintenance simpler for crews
Launched in February, the TCT series has been optimised for engines working to IMO Tier III NOx emission limits. They can be used on medium-speed and low-speed engines burning either conventional fuel or gas, with a power output from 6MW to 24MW. The series will eventually replace MAN’s established TCA turbochargers, which were introduced 15 years ago.
Mr Kalunig says: “The TCT series is a combination of new and proven design features specifically optimised for IMO Tier III engines. We’ve targeted a smaller, lighter design with a superior charging efficiency and a high air-pressure.”
Ease of maintenance is also a critical factor. At the series’ launch in Piraeus, guests watched Mr Klaunig and MAN vice president and head of after sales Alexander Schäfer disassemble a TCT40 turbocharger to demonstrate its simplified, service-friendly design.
The new designs are smaller and more efficient than the current turbochargers, with MAN claiming turbocharger efficiency of up to 80%. Manufacturing and operating costs have also been reduced.
The TCT40 and TCT60, for engines with a supercharged power output of 9.46MW and 15.2MW respectively, are already available. MAN has sold TCT40 turbochargers to two customers and the model is undergoing its first field test. The TCT60 will be delivered in mid-2020. Other sizes will be added in 2020 and 2021.
Even before its cutting-edge research centre, MAN has been innovating rapidly in turbochargers. Earlier this year it became the first engine company to establish variable turbine area (VTA) technology as standard for the turbochargers on large-bore, four-stroke engines.
The technology, which allows the volume of charge air to be precisely matched to the quantity of injected fuel at all points in an engine’s load and speed range, has been introduced on TCA turbochargers for MAN 51/60 engine type.
“High-tech solutions are necessary to meet the market’s demanding requirements and VTA turbochargers are becoming more and more important, especially when it comes to gas engines,” says MAN Energy Solutions project manager for MAN 51/60 engine series Stefan Terbeck. “VTA has already been applied from our licensee, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, which has reported excellent performance and high reliability on their engines.”
As of February, MAN Energy Solutions already had more than 380 references of turbochargers sold with VTA technology. The technology is approved for TCA turbocharger sizes TCA55 to TCA88, for both marine and power applications.
“We collected more than seven years of operational experience before approving VTA technology as standard,” says Mr Terbeck. “As a result, our 51/60DF engine is getting a proven, field-tested product.”
The typical payback period for VTA on MAN engines will be up to two years. The next step will be to make VTA standard for its MAN 51/60G engine type.
"We can really push efficiency to the limits with two-stage turbocharging"
The VTA technology is just one example of where MAN’s turbocharging technology has followed that of its parent company VW Group. Mr Klaunig believes that the company can follow the automobile market again by driving the downsizing of engines with modern turbocharging technology.
“It took ages for the car business to introduce turbochargers but now when you open the car hood you see two or three, plus blowers on the engine,” he says. “That’s really what is helping to economise those engines. We need to follow this path to support the engine manufacturers.”
Aside from mechanical research there is also more room for using digitalisation to assist turbocharger design through calculation tools, for example. Mr Klaunig says that like most others, MAN is looking to harness digital services that can provide health monitoring. It is also looking at how to digitalise the purchase process for marine products – a new approach will be introduced first to the earth moving and oil industries, then to the marine market next year.
But one of the biggest changes may be structural rather than technical. Over the past few years MAN has expanded its range with an electric turbo blower for exhaust gas recirculation, as well as other systems related to air management rather than turbocharging itself. Mr Klaunig believes that there is opportunity in this positioning as an air management systems provider.
“All these products relate to the engine’s air system and there is value in them coming from one supplier,” he says. “Most obviously is that it simplifies things for the customer, having just one point of contact. But we also believe there is the chance to fine tune these systems, which after all are closely connected, to improve efficiency.”
If MAN can achieve those efficiencies and convince shipowners of the benefits, perhaps it will indeed be a golden age – for the group’s turbocharging business, at least.