Innovative hull air bubbler system gains BV approval

Written by Nick Blenkey
Air bubbles around ship's hull

Bureau Veritas has awarded approval to the GILLS system, designed to support improved efficiency for both existing and new ships.

Bureau Veritas has awarded Singapore-based GILLS Pte Ltd. its Approval in Principle (AiP) for a hull air lubrication system that requires no energy-consuming compressors to generate air bubbles.

The GILLS (gas injected liquid lubrication systems) technology uses airfoil profiles developed by NASA predecessor NACA in a vortex generator, installed in the bow of the ship, to create self-generating micro-bubbles. This creates a “’turbulent modulation” with a “hull-tightening” effect that reduces hull drag and energy requirements.

The self-generating nature of the micro-bubble clouds with no requirement for air-compression and additional energy requirements is a major features of the GILLS system.

Following an in-depth assessment by Bureau Veritas in Singapore, covering safety of installation and updated class compliance, GILLS has now been awarded an AiP for the system to be installed onboard vessels in general. The AiP covers the design of the system and installation onboard vessels as reviewed against the Bureau Veritas Rules for Steel Ships NR 467.

Peter Kneipp, managing director of GILLS Pte Ltd. said: “The GILLS Air Lubrication System is a nature based innovative technology that not only uses the micro bubbles to reduce the drag, emissions, fuel and biofouling, but it also utilizes the ship speed to generate a negative pressure and minimizes the required external compressor power.

“We are greatly confident that GILLS will be a valuable contributor for practically every ship type to improve the EEDI /EEXI IMO Index. GILLS can also be retrofitted to existing ships as well as new vessels.

“The collaboration with GILLS is timely as the industry seeks performance improvements in line with the EEXI energy efficiency targets,” said David Barrow, SE Asia Zone vice-president for Bureau Veritas. “Pressure is building to find cost-effective solutions that work and can be financed.”

According to Barrow, the GILLS systems has been installed on an existing vessel for a number of years now and the vessel owners are confident of the fuel savings are approximately 10%.

“The next step,” says Barrow, “is a full-scale measurement and a validation exercise led by Bureau Veritas Solutions (BVS) to identify confirmed performance. BVS, our consultancy arm, is also working with GILLS to assess the potential of access to Singapore ‘Green Funds’ to provide financial support to owners considering using such energy-saving systems.”

The hull tightening effect of the GILLS technology is a phenomenon of the various factors and forces acting on the microbubbles generated by a GILLS vortex generator installed at the bow of the ship. These factors and forces can be identified as the following:

  • A ship’s forward movement;
  • Creation of microbubbles by negative pressure and Kelvin Helmholtz Instability (KHI) exiting the vortex generator;
  • The random shape of microbubbles with turbulence, eddies and vortices, from KHI;
  • Buoyancy acting on the micro bubbles inducing an upward force; and
  • Shape of the hull.
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