Bio-diesel tested for ship engines

Lloyd’s Register is to play a major role in a two-year programme to test the suitability of bio-diesel for use in powering marine engines.

The feasibility study will take place on board the Maersk Line container ship, Maersk Kalmar. Collaborators in the biodiesel project are Maersk Line, Maersk Tankers, Maersk Supply Service, Maersk Drilling, Maersk Ship Management, Lloyd’s Register’s Strategic Research Group and a consortium of Dutch subcontractors.

The project is being part funded by the Dutch government and coordinated by Maersk Maritime Technology (MSM).

The bio-diesel FAME (fatty acid methyl esters) used for the test will be based on sustainable crops grown in (temperate) regions or reused oils. Initially, the scope of the tests will involve using a blend of between five and seven per cent bio-diesel, with the blend percentage being steadily increased.

’One of the aims of the tests is to establish the degree to which issues experienced by the automotive industry in the use of FAMEwill be duplicated on board ship – in particular the impact on storage stability, handling and its subsequent use in the engine. Where adverse effects are arising it is hoped to find solutions to overcome them,’ said Kim Tanneberger, a specialist from Lloyd’s Register’s Strategic Research Group (SRG).

In theory, FAME can be used in pure form as an engine fuel. However, it has a number of shortcomings as a fuel, including susceptibility to microbial growth, adverse effects on instrumentation in the bilge-water system and poor cold-flow properties.