How turbocharger technology and TPL upgrades can make a difference to sustainability in shipping

An image of an Accelleron A200H turbocharger
Following Accelleron's media event at the Royal Institute in London, it’s time to look at how turbocharging technology and TPL upgrades can make a difference.

Last month, Accelleron hosted a media event at the Royal Institute in London, where our panel of experts discussed the topic of ‘Turbocharging Sustainability in Shipping’. We’ve already looked at the opening presentations, and now it’s time to look at how turbocharging technology and TPL upgrades can make a difference in future. 

Following talks from Dr Carlo Raucci and Patrizia Kern-Ferretti, Christophe Rofka, Senior General Manager at Accelleron, was next to the rostrum, discussing how turbocharging technology evolves over time, and what needs to change as we look towards a cleaner and more efficient future.

“It takes us four years to design, test and finally release a turbocharger for sale,” Rofka explained. “And then it takes another four or five years until the product is really ramped up to mature volume.

“That is too slow. Today, not one of our engine builders can give any precise requirements for turbocharging and engine running on ammonia or hydrogen. So, instead, they will learn how to make best use of the fuels, along with turbocharging, as we progress. Our conventional transitional way of working – our methodologies, our processes – do not meet the challenges that we face.”

Rofka pointed out that Accelleron has already started to change the way it works in response to this. “We have started to develop turbocharger technology components, such as turbine or compressor stages, based on generic values,” Rofka added. These could include values such as lower weights, or more compact designs, leading to greater efficiencies.

It’s this changed process that could see big advances in technology, and Rofka went on to point out that by doing things differently, we have found very unconventional ways to apply turbocharging technologies to engines.

“It’s the fast learning, the speed of execution and collaboration that will build the competitive advantage of the future,” Rofka added.

Christophe Rofka

How do we support existing fleets?

All of these learnings aren’t just applicable to brand new products. The latest technologies and materials can also be used retrospectively thanks to upgrades for turbochargers that are decades old, and that’s where Simone Bernasconi, Head of Product Line Upgrades at Accelleron, comes in, with his presentation focusing on the difference that Accelleron’s TPL upgrades can make to efficiency, fuel and emissions savings.

Bernasconi started off his presentation by showing a football field, introducing the idea of how much CO2 could be stored on eight football fields covered by trees. “It happens to be the same amount of CO2 that can be saved by implementing only one of our turbocharger TPL upgrades,” said Bernasconi. “One turbocharger upgrade, one year of operation, eight football fields fully covered by trees.”

That’s simply the beginning, Bernasconi explained, pointing out that if we updated all of our turbochargers using Accelleron’s TPL upgrades, overnight we’d be looking at the equivalent of an area capable of housing 250 million trees, equivalent to the size of metropolitan London. “That’s a lot of CO2 that can be saved,” added Bernasconi.

So how does it work? Bernasconi highlights the fact that marine engines have incredibly long lifecycles, being designed to operate for decades. Equipment will need servicing throughout its lifetime, which includes three different options.

We can replace parts like-for-like, for starters; a new turbine for an old turbine, for example. This will deliver longevity, but without any of the learnings or technology we’ve developed since that particular turbocharger was designed. In some cases, the turbocharger in question may have been designed 30 or 40 years ago.

We can also replace the turbocharger with a completely new unit, offering the benefits and efficiencies of cutting-edge technology, but Bernasconi pointed out that there are also downsides to this approach as well. Along with paying for a brand new turbocharger, for example, the owner will also need to upgrade all interfaces between the old engine and new turbocharger, which can be incredibly complex and expensive.

Which brings us to the third option: fitting the latest components to existing turbochargers. This is an area where owners can benefit from incredible efficiencies, said Bernasconi. These include lower emissions, increased fuel efficiency and lower fuel costs, better thermal management and even increased longevity, delivering lower running costs as a result – what’s not to like?

Simone Bernasconi

Following Rofka and Bernasconi’s presentations, our panel went on to discuss digital collaboration and co-creation. Stay tuned, as we’ll be bringing you the full report from those talks soon.