Test and training centre opens its doors in Denmark

17 Feb 2014
The fuel line at the test centre, components of which can be seen at the right, will be part of its work on energy efficiency

The fuel line at the test centre, components of which can be seen at the right, will be part of its work on energy efficiency

Alfa Laval recently formally inaugurated its new Test and Training Centre in Aalborg, Denmark, on site of the former Aalborg shipyard.

The company claims that its new ship simulation facility is “the largest and most advanced in the marine industry” and it “adds considerable muscle to research and development efforts.” centre comprises a 250 m² testing area, built around a 2MW marine engine which is surrounded by commercial and prototype equipment from all of Alfa Laval’s marine product groups. Connected to the test system are a dedicated control room and a training complex. The building is supplied with sea water by an 800m pipeline from the nearby Limfjord.

The engine at the heart of the centre is a MAN Diesel & Turbo 9L28/32 medium speed unit, weighing around 48 tons and supplying about 2,000kW. Various items of Alfa Laval equipment are attached to the engine, including a PureVent centrifugal separator, which allows for the reuse of the oil mist contained in the crankcase gas. The fuel for the engine, either HFO and MDO for the time being, although other fuels will probably be catered for in the future, will be treated using the company’s Alcap separator and fuel conditioning equipment.

The seawater provides more than just coolant - the flow splits into two, one for the cooling/process water and the other to simulate ballast water. The ballast segment is fitted with a PureBallast 3.0 system, which will be used for customer demonstrations as well as for testing and product development. The coolant water will be used for the other technical needs, including scrubber water cooling and the boiler. Desalination is carried out by Alfa Laval’s Aqua single-plate freshwater generator system.

The facility was formally inaugurated on 15 January by Peter Leifland, president of the Alfa Laval Marine and Diesel division, though parts of it had been contributing to the company’s R&D efforts for several months previously.

According to Alfa Laval, the feature that distinguishes its new facility from the other test centres in the industry are its fully interconnected process lines. These process lines are full size and organised in a similar fashion to those onboard an actual vessel at sea, though connected to a unified control system. They comprise a fuel line, an integrated water line, a steam line and an exhaust line, as well as the heat exchangers and other auxiliaries needed to support them. Among the applications handled are fuel cleaning and conditioning, waste heat recovery and exhaust gas cleaning.

“After only a half-hour tour of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Centre, you come away with an impression of just how deep the knowledge is,” says Lars Skytte Jørgensen, vice president of Alfa Laval Product Centre Boilers. “The centre really is similar to a machine room, and you get a sense of all the connections – not only between the equipment and process lines, but between all the areas of expertise across Alfa Laval.”

The company points out that a key driver behind the setting up of the new centre was Alfa Laval’s desire to be able to provide customers with assured and cost-effective compliance with current and future environmental legislation. A good example of this is the large PureSOx exhaust gas scrubber installation, located at the test system’s heart. In fact the company points out that exhaust gas cleaning technology was the initial reason for building the facility, in which it now takes pride of place.

Apart from further development of PureSOx, which, as the company reminds us, has seen recent repeat orders from both DFDS and Spliethoff, the centre will be working with NOx reduction in association with Haldor Topsøe. This project will focus on selective catalytic reduction (SCR), which provides a second solution alongside Alfa Laval’s PureNOx concept, which is based on exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) technology.

“As emission caps approach, such as the SOx limits appearing in 2015, Alfa Laval is committed to helping customers meet them,” says Jens Peter Hansen, Alfa Laval R&d manager, exhaust gas cleaning. “Scrubber technology has already proven effective and commercially viable, and we will continue to refine exhaust gas cleaning through our work here at the centre.”

The new centre will be employed in other areas of maritime technology in order to provide financial benefits for its customers. ‘Greener’ methods of operation already provide fuel-saving benefits, which have a significant impact on overall costs, and further refinements in energy efficiency can be developed and optimised at the facility, as a means of both saving money on operating costs and further reducing emissions, including the all-important greenhouse gases.

Among the facility’s key components in this respect is FCM One, a recently-announced fuel treatment system providing further developments based on Alfa Laval’s original Fuel Conditioning Module. With the FCM One’s integration of heating and cooling functions, a more efficient changeover between HFO and distillates can be managed. Another key component is the centre’s exhaust gas boiler, which will be involved in one of the first post-inauguration research projects.

“Energy efficiency is one of the greatest challenges facing the industry today, but also one of the greatest opportunities for competitive gains,” said Niclas Dahl, Alfa Laval market unit manager, energy. “Here at the centre we can explore the interaction between components – within and even across process lines – in a controlled and consistent manner. This will speed up the development of more energy-efficient equipment and new energy-saving techniques.”

It is not only the company and its clients who will benefit from the centre. Power and heat generated by the centre’s test engine will be, respectively, fed into the electricity grid and made available for district heating, providing a useful bonus for the population of Aalborg.

Alfa Laval’s partners and clients have largely given their blessing to the project. Speaking at the inauguration, Jasper Boessenkool, head of strategic R&D, Maersk Maritime Technology (part of the A.P. Moller Maersk group) emphasised the need for new technology in securing environmental and climate-friendly shipping. Tamio Kawashima, managing director of NYK Line subsidiary Monohakobi Technology Institute (MTI), sees the work of the centre as helping the Asian R&D movement meet the 0.5% global SOx cap. And Thomas S. Knudsen, president of MAN Diesel & Turbo, remarked that the venture would help explore the relationship between saving energy today and preparing for the fuels of the future.

“Our work is done in a constant dialogue with our customers, and it’s their challenges we have to meet from a multitude of perspectives,” said Mr Leifland. “Owners, operators yards – each have their own issues to resolve, and we have the depth and breadth to act as their partner, rather than just a supplier.”

Now that the centre is in full operation, Alfa Laval says it is able to intensify its efforts in meeting customer challenges. “With the centre now in full swing, we have the possibility to speed up our innovation processes and take R&D to a new level. No facility in the world offers the same combination of resources, expertise and 24-hour access,” said Mr Jørgensen. “It’s a combination that will bring new benefits and greater peace of mind to marine customers in the years to come.”

Mr Jørgensen believes that the centre will provide the same level of assurance as actual sea trials, but with greater efficiency. “A commercial vessel has its own priorities, which naturally makes testing more complicated and time consuming. Shipyard time may be needed to get the equipment on board, and harbour schedules can be influenced by weather, business changes and other circumstances. Instant or even easy access to the testing vessel is anything but a given,” he said. “Here we will be able to steer our own time and to observe our equipment 24/7, tweaking it whenever we need to.”

As well as R&D, the centre will provide Alfa Laval with a useful training facility, adding Aalborg to existing training sites in Stockholm, Manila and Shanghai. This can be used for a variety of external training courses as well as for in-depth training of Alfa Laval’s own sales and service staff. The company says that in the future, ship owners and operators will be able to send engineers and technical supervisors to the centre for hands-on training in new technologies and Alfa Laval products, as well as service training aimed at minimising maintenance-related operating costs. For shipbuilders, there will be training in the sizing and configuration of equipment for maximum economy, as well as the impact of design choices on service possibilities and the equipment’s daily use.

In conclusion Mr Leifland said: “The Alfa Laval Test and Training Centre is the ultimate proof of our commitment to R&D and meeting the challenges faced by the marine industry.” He added that the inauguration of the Centre was a celebration of the company’s commitment as well as firing the starting gun for the beginning of a new era.

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