Building on a solid platform

Leif-Arne Skarbø, Chief Technology Officer at Bergen Engines, noted that the energy transition was occurring
Leif-Arne Skarbø, Chief Technology Officer at Bergen Engines, noted that the energy transition was occurring "far faster than we had expected".
The prototype of Bergen Engines' new B33:45 V20. (Picture copyright: Håkon Dalland / Bergen Engines AS)
The prototype of Bergen Engines' new B33:45 V20. (Picture copyright: Håkon Dalland / Bergen Engines AS)
Bergen Engines' first B36:45 inline engine.
Bergen Engines' first B36:45 inline engine.
Industry Database

Leif-Arne Skarbø, Bergen Engines, Chief Technology Officer, shares the latest developments in Bergen’s engine portfolio

Leif-Arne Skarbø discussed the latest extension of Bergen Engines’ engine portfolio in an interview on the Vancouver shore during the recent 2019 CIMAC Congress.

Skarbø reviewed the latest extension of Bergen Engines’ engine portfolio, with the introduction of a powerful 12MW V20 topping the range.

He noted that the development of the V-powered engine posed a number of development challenges, related to reconciling variable load and speed requirements with structural vibration management. The project had benefited from extensive customer involvement, as well as extensive modelling.

“When we started developing this new platform, some of the team doubted our targeted efficiency savings would be achievable. So to exceed them is really satisfying,” he said. Specific energy consumption is 7300kj/kWh and lubricating oil consumption is less than 0.4g/kWh.

The new V20 engine is likely to be destined for the stationary energy generation market, where Bergen’s B3x:45 series has achieved rapid growth in high value niches, such as the greenhouse market. However, the rapid growth in the market for LNG-fuelled vessels is also creating opportunities.

“The core market for Bergen’s gas engines was traditionally markets that placed a high premium on our record of reliability, such as the oil and gas market, but we are starting to see increased interest in our engines from the RoPax and cruise vessel segments,” Skarbø said. Norwegian ship operator Hurtigruten has opted to retrofit some of its cruise vessels with Bergen B36:45 gas engines in a hybrid system with batteries.

The reliability and solid service record of Bergen’s engines have also seen it penetrate high value mobile markets, such as FSRUs, which have traditionally favoured gas turbines. “Our Bergen engine offers near 90% energy efficiencies compared with gas turbines’ lower levels – for a large installation, the savings over the life of a vessel are significant.”

Advantages of a modular approach

Bergen Engines is now extending the B3X:45 family to embrace higher engine outputs and gas versions for alternative fuel requirements. Skarbø noted that the design of the engines was modular, and would facilitate a straightforward rebuild of an engine from gas to diesel or vice versa when and if required.

“Our customers were originally uncertain about committing to LNG without the option of switching back,” Skarbø said. The modular approach offered other benefits, including cost reductions in the cost of sourcing components, as well as greater flexibility in terms of production.

Another advantage of the modular approach was that it permitted a number of different engine variations to be developed, while minimising the costs of expanding the engine designer’s portfolio.

Skarbø noted that the gas and diesel versions of the B33:45V engine shared the same engine block, crankshaft, oil-sump & foundation, upper and lower front-end module and exhaust system. The camshaft and VVT arrangement and turbocharger type were largely similar while the only two new modules for the gas version of the engine are the power-pack module and the fuel system module.

Combustion approaches

Within the B3x:45 family, Bergen now offers two distinct combustion options: the conventional diesel combustion system, and the Otto Cycle lean burn gas combustion system.

“These are the only two models I know of and are likely to be the basis of any future internal combustion engine,” Skarbø said.

Skarbø noted that while Bergen’s current gas engines are all fitted with conventional fuel injection systems, Bergen had successfully developed common-rail solutions and run them on their engines in the test bed.

“We could offer a common rail injection option to our customers if asked,” Skarbø said. This experience could be relevant if Rolls Royce Power Systems pursues research into a high-pressure dual fuel gas/liquid injected diesel variant.

While the concept was developed by Wärtsilä for medium speed four-stroke engines in the early 1990s, it could offer further promise in light of subsequent technological advances in control systems, cylinder pressure monitoring and common rail injection technologies.

Future fuels and the future

The real uncertainty for Skarbø was around what the future fuel mix would be. “I like to say – you bring it and I’ll burn it! But it is difficult when we don’t know what the future fuel mix will look like.”

“I personally expect the future energy vector to be hydrogen-based if we do prohibit the combustion of fossil fuels – this would work with a gas turbine, a reciprocating engine or a steam cycle engine or even a fuel cell,” he said.

The energy transition was also likely to occur faster than was widely appreciated outside the energy generation industry appreciated: “it is far faster than we expected – we are seeing an exponential growth in renewables,” he said.

Skarbø was clear about the advantages of being part of the wider Rolls Royce group in terms of sharing wider research developments.

“It is an exciting moment with so many developments happening across the group, from the gas turbines to some of the research work in Rolls Royce’s mobility sector. Within Rolls Royce Power Systems, there are developments within the high-speed engine section in MTU, such as work on hybridisation and fuel cells. Sometimes research in one area seems to be applicable to one field, and then three years later finds an application in another,” Skarbø said.

But observers hoping for Rolls Royce’s pioneering research into battery powered short-haul flight to revolutionise the fleet are likely to be in for a long wait. “We will still need some type of internal combustion solution for deep-sea applications unless we can solve the battery weight/density problem.”

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