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."

Fortunately, software-based continuous emission monitoring systems (CEMS) are also going out to sea, and they require no more space than a server, while being easy to install and highly accurate. As an alternative to costly hardware-based systems, Rockwell Automation's Software CEMS uses the Pavilion8 Model Analytic Engine to calculate NOx, CO, greenhouse gas and other emissions.

"Software CEMS continuously monitor emissions by means of an online model using historical and real-time source data," explained Miller. "With software-based CEMS, users end up with cost-effective monitoring, regulatory compliance and highly accurate, reliable emissions reporting."

Electric Propulsion Boosts Performance

In addition, Richard Piekarz, senior marine industry solutions manager for medium- voltage (MV) drives at Rockwell Automation, explained that, "Propulsion systems must meet the rising performance and environmental demands of ship builders, operators and designers. To meet those demands, many owner/operators are selecting electric systems over traditional diesel-mechanical systems. Proper electric system selection requires an understanding of the benefits of electric systems over diesel-mechanical systems, the advantages of MV drives over low-voltage (LV) drives, and how transformerless MV drives differ from standard MV drives."

Piekarz added that, compared to diesel-mechanical propulsion systems, electric systems enable increased vessel speed, better maneuvering, reduced noise and vibration, improved ship layout and flexibility, lower fuel consumption, less air pollution, higher efficiency and reduced maintenance. "The enabling technology in these highly efficient electric propulsion systems is the variable-speed MV drives, which are typically 3300 V to 6900 V," he said. "Reducing the current and allowing more cost-effective and compact electrical components reduces short-circuit bracing requirements for electrical equipment and lowers installation cost and complexity."

Rockwell Automaton offers a variety of MV generator circuit breakers; AC motors for propulsion and auxiliary services; drive isolation and power transformers; VSDs and other components that can be used on ships and other vessels.

Enabling Ship-Wide Control

For example, Troels Severinsen, managing director at Logimatic Engineering in Denmark, reported that his firm has developed a new and innovative Integrated Platform Management System (IPMS) for the five biggest vessels in the Danish Navy. "Their control system requirements have been achieved with COTS equipment, mainly from Rockwell Automation," said Severinsen.

"Systems integrated under the IPMS umbrella include: propulsion control system (PCS); power management system (PMS); ship systems including fuel supply, cooling systems, hydraulics, sanitary systems, etc.; damage management system (DMS); fire detection and control system; conning displays; alarm system, including extension alarms for unmanned machinery; loading computer for ship stability; navigation equipment interface, including gyro, speed log, autopilot, echo sounder; GPS; meteorological instruments; and warfare systems interface."

To control all these systems, Severinsen added that Logimatic used Rockwell Automation's FactoryTalk platform, ControlLogix PLCs and software, I/O-modules, and  PanelView displays, as well as standard, marine-approved PCs.

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