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Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre to begin testing of marine biofuels

Alfa Laval – a world leader in heat transfer, centrifugal separation, and fluid handling – has announced that the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre in Denmark has been readied for testing with biofuels. Already equipped for today’s oil and gas fuels, the centre will accumulate knowledge that is vital to a carbon-free future for the marine industry as it races to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

The Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre in Aalborg, Denmark has been readied for testing with biofuels. Already equipped for today’s oil and gas fuels, the centre will accumulate knowledge that is vital to a carbon-free future for the marine industry as it races to slash greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050 (photo courtesy Alfa Laval).

Located in Aalborg, Denmark, the 2 800 m2 Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre is a core component of Alfa Laval’s own research and development. It is also a site for collaboration with industry partners and research institutes, which will be needed to reach the International Maritime Organization (IMO) goal of cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent over 2008 levels.

Alfa Laval, together with biofuel technology developer MASH Energy ApS (formerly MASH Biotech ApS) and vessel owner and ferry operator DFDS A/S have entered into one such collaboration, funded in part by Shipping Lab, a Danish non-profit initiative focused on smart shipping.

Two 25 m3 tanks have been installed at the centre, one of which is stainless steel and dedicated for testing of biofuels and other new fuel types. New fuel alternatives are constantly being introduced to the marine industry, but the knowledge about their behaviour in marine fuel systems is limited. We want to extend that knowledge through testing, beginning with biofuels, said Lars Bo Andersen, Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre Manager.

Finding answers about biofuel operation

Biofuels have high potential and will undoubtedly play a part in meeting IMO climate goals. Many such fuels are on the verge of entering the market, and Alfa Laval is often approached by shipowners regarding their use. Yet while they represent a significant opportunity, biofuels, as they are today, also involve many unknowns.

Biofuels are produced from many different sources using a wide range of production methods. Consequently, the end product varies. Even though producers aim to fulfil the ISO 8217 standard, fuel users may experience undesirable fuel behaviours, such as corrosion of the fuel system, said Lars Bo Andersen.

Corrosion, Andersen adds, is not the only potential issue.

Fuel injection is steered by viscosity, which is in turn controlled by heating. The relationship between heat and viscosity is hard to predict for biofuels, so the existing curves for HFO and LSHFO don’t apply. For biofuels to be used safely and efficiently, we have to gain more knowledge about them in order to optimize their handling and combustion, Lars Bo Andersen said.

From boiler tests to bunkering

The first biofuel tested at the centre will be one produced in India by MASH Energy, which is created through the pyrolysis of waste biomass. Sourced from waste in this way, the fuel would be a net positive, removing fossil carbon dioxide (CO2) from the overall carbon equation.

The dark, viscous fuel will initially be mixed with “normal” oil and be combusted using the Alfa Laval Aalborg dual-fuel boilers at the centre, which will allow both flame characteristics and emissions such as NOx and particulate matter (PM) to be examined.

Between the tank and the boilers, the biofuel will be treated with an Alfa Laval high-speed separator to remove any impurities.

Depending on the results, the next stage will be combusting the fuel in the centre’s four-stroke engine. That will involve a complete fuel line, including an Alfa Laval Moatti fuel oil filter and a Fuel Conditioning Module in addition to the separator. If all goes smoothly at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre, the aim is that the biofuel can be bunkered on the DFDS Pearl Seaways for hot water production while in Danish ports, and perhaps eventually as a fuel for the auxiliary engines, said Lars Bo Andersen.

More fuels and partnerships in the pipeline

Samples of the MASH Energy biofuel have already been received and tested at VeriFuel in Athens, Greece. VeriFuel is Bureau Veritas’ comprehensive Marine Fuel Services program designed to facilitate the future developments of the marine fuel industry.

Alfa Laval, together with MASH Energy and DFDS has entered into a collaboration, funded in part by Shipping Lab, a Danish non-profit initiative focused on smart shipping, to test marine biofuels on the Pearl Seaways (photo courtesy DFDS).

In anticipation of the full-scale delivery to Aalborg, additional preparations are being made at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre, for example, to enable real-time viscosity and emission measurements that will improve the boiler combustion control.

Likewise, Alfa Laval is in dialogue with additional biofuel producers, as well as other research partners. The latter include Aalborg University, where fuels derived from hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) are in focus.

HTL is a bioconversion technology that can turn any wet organic material into an energy-dense bio-crude.

There are many possibilities for producing tomorrow’s fuels, and testing will be needed to overcome the many different challenges in the end results. Getting to 2050 successfully will require intense research into lots of different options, which demands partnerships across the industry. We’re proud to contribute with Alfa Laval’s experience and the capabilities of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre, ended Lars Bo Andersen.

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