Marine biofuel testing set to begin at Alfa Laval Test & Training Center

Written by Nick Blenkey
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Preparations for biofuel testing at Alfa Laval Test & Training Center include installation of two 25 cu. m fuel tanks

The Alfa Laval training center in Aalborg, Denmark, has been readied to start testing biofuels.

While the center plays a key role in Alfa Laval’s own R&D efforts, it is also a site for the type of collaboration with industry partners and research institutes that will be needed to reach IMO’s decarbonization goals. In one such collaboration, partly funded by Danish non-profit Shipping Lab, Alfa Laval and shipowner DFDS are cooperating with biofuel producer MASH Energy.

“Two 25-cubic-meter tanks have been installed at the center, one of which is stainless steel and dedicated for testing of biofuels and other new fuel types,” says Lars Bo Andersen, Alfa Laval Test & Training Center Manager. “New fuel alternatives are constantly being introduced to the marine industry, but the knowledge about their behavior in marine fuel systems is limited. We want to extend that knowledge through testing, beginning with biofuels.”

Biofuels show a high potential for playing a part in meeting IMO climate goals and many are on the verge of entering the market. While Alfa Laval is often approached by shipowners regarding their use, it cautions that biofuels as they are today involve many unknowns.

“Biofuels are produced from many different sources using a wide range of production methods,” says Andersen. “Consequently, the end product varies. Even though producers aim to fullfil the ISO 8217 standard, fuel users may experience undesirable fuel behaviors, such as corrosion of the fuel system.”

Corrosion is not the only potential issue.

“Fuel injection is steered by viscosity, which is in turn controlled by heating,” says Andersem. “The relationship between heat and viscosity is hard to predict for biofuels, so the existing curves for HFO and LSHFO don’t apply. For biofuels to be used safely and efficiently, we have to gain more knowledge about them in order to optimize their handling and combustion.”

From Boiler Tests to Bunkering on Board
The first biofuel tested at the center will be one produced in India by MASH Energy, which is created through pyrolysis of waste biomass. Sourced from waste in this way, the fuel would be a net positive, removing CO2 from the overall carbon equation.

The dark, viscous fuel will initially be mixed with “normal” oil and be combusted using the Alfa Laval Aalborg dual-fuel boilers at the center, which will allow both flame characteristics and emissions such as NOx and particulate matter (PM) to be examined. Between the tank and the boilers, the biofuel will be treated with an Alfa Laval high-speed separator to remove any impurities.

“Depending on the results, the next stage will be combusting the fuel in the center’s four-stroke engine,” says Andersen. “That will involve a complete fuel line, including an Alfa Laval Moatti fuel oil filter and a Fuel Conditioning Module in addition to the separator. If all goes smoothly at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center, the aim is that the biofuel can be bunkered on the DFDS Pearl Seaways for hot water production while in Danish ports, and perhaps eventually as a fuel for the auxiliary engines.”

Samples of the MASH Energy biofuel have already been received and tested at VeriFuel in Athens. In anticipation of the full-scale delivery in Aalborg, additional preparations are being made at the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center, for example to enable real-time viscosity and emission measurements that will improve boiler combustion control.

Likewise, Alfa Laval is in dialogue with additional biofuel producers, as well as other research partners. These include Aalborg University, where fuels derived from hydrothermal liquefaction (HTL) are in focus. HTL is a bioconversion technology that can turn any wet organic material into an energy-dense bio-crude.

“There are many possibilities for producing tomorrow’s fuels, and testing will be needed to overcome the many different challenges in the end results,” says Andersen. “Getting to 2050 successfully will require intense research into lots of different options, which demands partnerships across the industry. We’re proud to contribute with Alfa Laval’s experience and the capabilities of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center.”

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