The Alfa Laval Test & Training Center in Aalborg, Denmark will soon be expanded to five times its current size. This development, focused on liquefied natural gas (LNG) and other alternative fuels, aims to address new challenges and possibilities for marine customers as they strive to meet environmental and energy targets. Alfa Laval said the expansion will create the world’s most advanced test center for environmental and combustion technology – regardless of fuel type.
Alfa Laval describes its Test & Training Center as a cornerstone of customer-focused technology development. Opened nearly two years ago, it is already a massive facility, boasting a 250-square-meter testing space where a 2-megawatt diesel engine and equipment from all of Alfa Laval’s marine product groups create simulation of a full-sized commercial vessel. Now it will be expanded with an additional 1,100 square meters, dedicated to environmental and combustion technology in burners and heating systems for vessels using LNG and other alternative marine fuels. The wider operations are expected to begin at the turn of the year 2016-2017.
“LNG and other fuel alternatives will play a key role in meeting the marine industry’s environmental and energy challenges,” said Peter Leifland, head of Alfa Laval’s Marine & Diesel Division. “Through the expansion of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center, we will support this shift with cutting-edge technology development.”
As Leifland suggests, the expansion of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center is in step with the new direction being taken by many ship owners. In just 15 years, it is expected that 7,000 vessels will be sailing with LNG, compared with 500 today.
“This is a remarkable change, driven in part by the successive tightening of NOx and SOx regulations by IMO,” said Bodil Nielsen, Test & Training Center Manager. “LNG is an attractive solution, because it reduces NOx by 85-90 percent and virtually eliminates SOx.”
By moving from petroleum-based fuels to LNG, vessels can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent overall. However, as Nielsen pointed out, “Advanced technology is a prerequisite for making the switch.”
The challenges involved with gas are nearly as great as the benefits, according to Alfa Laval. LNG poses additional environmental difficulties due to the methane and other greenhouse gases that evaporate from it, no matter how it is stored or transported. Moreover, all gas fuels are a serious explosion hazard, requiring sophisticated equipment for safe handling and treatment.
At the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center, existing solutions to these challenges will be refined – and new ones developed. “There are key processes that become significantly more complex when LNG is involved, which means the technologies on board must be even more advanced,” said Lars Skytte Jørgensen V.P. Product Center Boilers at Alfa Laval. “The Alfa Laval Test & Training Center ensures that our diesel-related equipment is the most proven on the market, and with the new expansion, it will do the same for our gas-related solutions.”
Alfa Laval said the expanded facility will be the only one of its kind where environmental technologies for all types of fuels can be tested. Moreover, it will promote development from a range of perspectives. As in the existing diesel testing space, interactions and synergies between process lines will be explored in the gas testing area.
As an example, Jørgensen pointed to the combustion of evaporated greenhouse gases from LNG. “While the gases have to be burned to minimize environmental impact, we will develop the best technology for doing it safely – and for using the energy to provide heat and propulsion,” he said. “By looking not only at the environment, but also at energy efficiency and economy, the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center will ensure that Alfa Laval is the clear choice for customers who make the transition to gas-powered ships.”
The expansion of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center, which is supported by the Danish Maritime Fund, will also provide new opportunities to collaborate with customers and cooperation partners. Such collaborations have been instrumental in many areas, such as the development of flagship environmental systems like Alfa Laval PureNOx, Alfa Laval PureSOx and Alfa Laval PureBallast.
Combined with the center’s unique physical capabilities, deepened collaboration will strengthen Alfa Laval’s position as the marine expert in environmental and fuel technology. “Alfa Laval is the only company in the world to offer the complete package of environmental and combustion-optimizing systems for the shipping industry,” Jørgensen said. “Because we contribute to so many vital aspects on board, we are fortunate to have many who wish to be involved with our research and development.”
“The Alfa Laval Test & Training Center today is a focal point for advanced development of diesel fuel systems and related environmental technologies,” added Bodil Nielsen. “With the new expansion for gas, it will have the same strong role when it comes to LNG and other fuels. The gas revolution is here, and Alfa Laval will be at the cutting edge.”