Marine Forum Takes Control to Sea

Shipboard Power Systems Benefit from Rockwell Automation Technology

By Jim Montague

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Automation Fair 2012

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Just like the famous Navy SEALs, good control and automation solutions don't care if they're on land or water. This is lucky because more traditionally plant-based process control software and hardware is going out to sea on ships, support vessels and oil platforms.

"Our control solutions are being used to support everything from drive systems on diesel-electric ships to emissions monitoring for environmental compliance to on-ship heating and ventilations systems," said Joe Moffa, marine industry manager at Rockwell Automation, who moderated the Marine Industry Forum today at Automation Fair 2012 in Philadephia.

Holistic Approach to Power Needed

For instance, Willie Wagen, director of concept development and innovation in the ship power division at Wartsila Corp., reported that the power plants on ships typically transmit only 34% of the total fuel energy they consume to the actual propellers, and advanced energy management principles, variable-speed drives (VSDs) and hybrid electric and mechanical systems can help.

"A holistic approach is the key to reducing transmission losses in shipboard electric power plants. A modern electric plant on board a ship is the enabler of greater efficiency through the drive train," said Wagen. "Based on the operating profile of a vessel, power plant configurations tightly coupled with integrated ship systems can offer huge reductions in the total losses from the plant. For example, enabling the prime mover to run with a lower RPM or with a higher utilization by using VSDs, optimum efficiency can be achieved in different operational modes. The electric plant can also enable the integration of renewable energy sources, such as wind, solar and heat recovery, as well as other future technologies such as fuel cells and energy storage systems." He added that Wartsila's WIAS econometer software and interface can display and help optimize many of these variables.

CEMS and Transformerless Drives

On the emissions-monitoring front, Joe Miller, global technical consultant for Rockwell Automation's environmental division, reported that, "Ship owners and operators will soon be required to meet the strict emissions reduction and monitoring requirements of the International Marine Organization (IMO) and the new rules detailed in MARPOL 73/78 Annex VI global regulations. These requirements include nitrogen oxide (NOx) reduction on ships constructed as far back as January 1990. Accuracy and verifiable emissions reporting, as well as reporting system uptime, are keys to avoiding fines when docking assets in foreign ports. As regulations become more stringent, processes that were once exempt now find themselves required to account for their impact on the environment. Finding the right solution is paramount."

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