Ahead of the respected gathering of engine experts at CIMAC Congress 2023 in June, Fathom looks at what to expect from this year’s event.
The triennial engine jamboree that is CIMAC Congress returns next month, after a pandemic-prompted four-year hiatus. Even on its regular routine, catching up with three years’ worth of engine research and development in one week is a daunting task. This time it is even more so, and not just because of the extra year.
The gap has spanned a radical reshaping of industry perspectives on decarbonisation. Early service experience has been gained with (potentially carbon-neutral) methanol fuel, including uptake by the first merchant vessels beyond the methanol tanker segment. Hybrid power has emerged as not only a transition step to fully electric short-sea sailing but as a viable option for larger vessels. And the use of zero-carbon fuels, such as ammonia, and the decarbonisation of traditional fossil fuels (as bio- or synthetic fuels or through carbon capture) are becoming realistic prospects.
All themes are in evidence among the 250-odd papers collated by the Association of the Internal Combustion Machinery Industry (CIMAC) for its event in Busan. While the congress reaches far beyond shipping, including power generation and heavy duty applications, there is plenty on the agenda both for marine engineers and for corporate strategists hoping to gain an insight into the future of ship propulsion and fuels.
One session sure to peak interest features an update from MAN Energy Solutions on the methanol-fuelled ME-LGIM engines that will shortly be powering Maersk container ships. That presentation will be accompanied by an insight from HD Hyundai on the development of the Himsen methanol-fuelled engine, which will be deployed as auxiliaries on the Maersk vessels. In the same session the prospect of methanol engine retrofits is considered and, proving that there is much development still to be done in the field of methanol engines, alternative combustion concepts for newbuild and retrofit are explored.
CMA Ships’ Philippe Renauld will continue his long-standing contribution to the CIMAC agenda with two presentations. One will outline the container line’s position on LNG fuel and how the application of carbon capture and storage offers a viable route to decarbonisation. The other reports its experience of using a range of VLSFO-biofuel blends to reduce emissions.
There are other shipping stakeholders in attendance too. Stolt Tankers’ Jose Gonzalez will take a view on the decarbonisation challenges for the parcel chemical tanker segment. Then Dutch shipbuilder Damen will share some learnings on the impact of alternative fuel use on ship designs.
The programme also highlights how much development remains to be done before ammonia as fuel is fully understood. While both MAN and Wärtsilä will provide updates on their progress towards releasing ammonia engines, a host of other papers focus on more fundamental research questions around the fuel, including combustion concepts, injection timing and, crucially, its emissions characteristics.
It’s not all about engines these days, with digital optimisation and control very much in the spotlight, alongside non-engine power technologies including fuel cells. And emissions abatement gets a good look too, particularly research updates on tackling particulate matter – an issue still under discussion at IMO but actively controlled by the EU and other regional authorities.
The papers accepted by CIMAC represent an interesting microcosm of the global ship technology market. While corporate presentations are dominated by European companies, with fourteen from MAN alone, it is Chinese universities that lead in the papers on basic research. Harbin Engineering University, a leading academic institution for engine technology and shipbuilding in China, will be the biggest institutional presenter at CIMAC Congress 2023, with eighteen submissions. Those numbers suggest that while European technology still leads in market terms, much of today’s innovation is coming from elsewhere.
The full conference programme can be viewed here.