Damian McCann, product manager for enginei EFMS, looks at how the IMO’s Sulphur 2020 regulations will put even greater importance on fuel management issues.
As IMO Sulphur 2020 draws ever closer, the focus on vessel fuel implications grows ever stronger. In particular it is widely accepted that the costs of refining low sulphur fuel will inevitably increase fuel prices.
In turn, this is likely to put even more importance on fuel consumption and operating efficiency matters, reinforcing a marine sector trend in favour of effective electronic fuel management systems (EFMS) that has rapidly gathered pace in recent years.
The most advanced fuel management systems have taken both the hardware and software elements of traditional fuel systems and increased their ability to gather comprehensive and real time engine performance data, as well as take into account a range of other vessel operational factors and conditions.
In doing so, sophisticated on board flowmeters and sensor systems are now combined with powerful data capture software to produce a complete picture of the mission critical information required to fully assess and maintain vessel fuel efficiency at all stages, from bunkering, through route planning and emissions control to the identification of optimum vessel speeds.
As a result, in today’s regulatory-rich marine environment, the ability of fuel monitoring systems to provide robust, accurate and comprehensive data has taken on even greater importance in terms of their ability to monitor, measure and optimise vessel performance.
There has been some speculation that the higher cost of low-sulphur fuel oil may increase the likelihood of fuel bunkering malpractices, short delivery and other security issues.
In such circumstances, the use of mass flow meters and effective monitoring and recording of fuel supplies provides greater confidence in relation to accurate fuel quantity measurements. For example, modern EFMS utilise sensors installed on all bunker manifolds to capture loaded and discharged fuel, providing reports for all bunker operations – and have the ability to detect anomalies, both in real time and by analysing historical data.
Indeed in some marine sectors it is already the case that tamper proof fuel monitoring systems linked to inventory controls are helping to eliminate potential fuel security issues by comparing fuel burn rates against bunkering information and vessel performance to determine whether any pilferage or false reporting has taken place.
With an estimated 90% of all trade worldwide being carried by ships burning vast amounts of fuel, slower vessel speeds has been suggested as one possible solution to offset the cost of higher fuel prices – so called slow steaming.
Notwithstanding the fact that longer sailing times will inevitably impact on overall market capacity and will need to be taken into account, the benefits of slow steaming vary across different ship types, sizes, routes and range of operations. It is also often overlooked that slow steaming can impact on engine operating conditions that could also influence other factors such as fouling and corrosion.
However, rather than slow steaming, there is considerable merit in identifying ‘optimum steaming’ or ‘ecospeed’ operation as a means of reducing wasteful fuel consumption.
To meet this challenge new advanced fuel management systems already have the capability to consider the different aspects of adjusting and planning for optimal vessel speed and engine load to identify the most fuel-efficient speed of a vessel across all applicable operational modes.
In practice, flowmeters and sensors can accurately monitor the fuel being consumed by each of a vessel’s engines, which is tracked against GPS data, voyage details and operational mode. This data is collected, processed and then relayed to bridge and engine room-mounted touchscreen monitors to enable the ship’s master to adjust vessel speed and take whatever other actions are needed to maximise efficiency
As a consequence, this digitally enhanced speed management capability, means that fuel efficient ‘just in time shipping’ can become a realistic proposition.
Traditionally, vessel efficiency has largely been considered on the basis of fuel consumption in relation to propulsion and has not tended to include the various other on-board processes and services required during different types of operations or activity.
Higher fuel costs will inevitably mean that overall operational efficiencies will take on even greater importance in the need to reduce and manage overall fuel burn. However, marine vessel energy management is a complex process, with the performance of any individual ship being influenced by many interconnected systems, all of which affect energy use.
This focus on energy efficiency lies very much at the centre of the marine digitalisation drive with vessels increasingly becoming sophisticated sensor hubs capable of handling and analysing data from multiple sources to enable operators improve their operational behaviours and deliver performance benefits more quickly.
Various on board sensors are already used to measure different aspects of ship performance, such as fuel flow, engine torque, RPM and power, as well as temperatures, pressures, electrical load and speed of the vessel.
To fully understand and monitor energy efficiency across the vessel, the data from these sources can be aggregated and analysed to allow proper interpretation as the basis for informed decisions and actions required to maintain optimum day to day operations, and potentially in the design and development of future vessels
For example, whole vessel energy management methodology has the potential to assess the performance of all on-board machinery by taking into account the individual power demands of thrusters, HVAC, refrigeration, hotel loads and all other systems and subsystems.
Assessing these demands enables energy losses to be quantified, providing opportunities to improve operational performance and encourage further investigation into on board energy recovery systems for the potential use of waste energy.
In this way, the use of intelligent on-board data associated with digital fuel management systems is fundamental to understanding the power consumption and energy flows throughout an entire ship – factors that will be essential in ensuring that all systems involved in the operation of a vessel are running at optimum fuel performance and within environmental limits.
Maritime transport emits around 1 billion tonnes of CO2annually and is responsible for around 2.5% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. This contribution is predicted to rise by 50% – 250% by 2050 depending on future economic activity and energy development.
At the heart of the IMO 2020 regulations, therefore, is the need to reduce emissions and integrated fuel management systems can help by providing special engine profile-based emissions analysis capabilities.
Operating without the need for permanent emissions gas analysers, these systems capture data from sensors installed on the vessel to monitor key engine performance indicators, fuel specifications and flow rates. The information is then used to calculate a range of vessel emissions measurements.
In this way, carbon footprint data can be captured, NOx profiles for individual engines created and advisory SOx levels predicted to inform fuel switch over decisions during travel in emissions controlled zones. In addition, all emission values are calculated as mass, in line with most regulatory requirements.
For example, with density measurement of fuel, operators can now use the fuel data to verify when switches are made from heavy fuel to low sulphur fuel in ECA and SECA zones, which are especially prevalent in the USA in relation to a vessel’s SEEMP.
Monitoring, reporting and verification
Modern fuel monitoring systems facilitate the compilation of daily reports and vessel energy efficiency plans in a range of different formats.
For example, as well as presenting fuel data on board via touchscreen monitors installed on the bridge and in engine control rooms, data transfer from ship to shore means that live and historical performance figures can be accessed through a simple web dashboard for full vessel performance analysis and compliance with all regulatory requirements, including MRV.
Efficient record keeping of key vessel performance and supply data will be a critical requirement in ensuring compliance with the IMO 2020 sulphur cap. With enforcement of the new limits falling to individual port, state control and flag states, inspection of vessel records and documentation is likely to be the first stage in determining compliance.
Even in cases of non-compliance, it has been suggested that good quality documentation and records might be used to demonstrate that vessel owners have acted reasonably and made every effort to comply.
In these circumstances EFMS data gathering portals ensure high quality data collection and presentation, that cannot be violated or falsified, and, as such, will have a vital role to play in demonstrating that IMO Sulphur 2020 requirements have been adhered to.
In response to the impending introduction of the IMO’s Sulphur 2020 regulations, shipowners and operators have begun exploring more fuel efficient vessels and low carbon fuel options, but these changes alone will not be able to meet future efficiency, air pollution and carbon emission requirements.
Lowering the environmental impact of an industry that moves almost 90% of global trade is a significant undertaking and will only be successful if it involves changing established behaviours, introducing new technologies and developing more effective operating procedures.
In rising to these challenges, those vessel operators that have an effective fuel management strategy will gain an important competitive advantage; in a marine world where fuel price volatility is likely to be the norm, fuel related issues are here to stay, making effective on-board fuel management more important than ever.