Breakthrough in air lubrication: Large ships glide on bubbles

8. november 2022 kl. 15:05
Breakthrough in air lubrication: Large ships glide on bubbles
Large sea-going vessels such as container and cruise ships can reduce fuel consumption by “gliding on bubbles.” Illustration: Magnifier/Bigstock.
Air lubrication is a technology that is more than a hundred years old. Now it faces its commercial breakthrough.
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“With our FluidicAL technology, a series of wing-shaped bands are fitted across the hull, dividing it into sections. From there, the air bubbles are sent out into the individual sections using a fluidic oscillator. That way, we can adjust the bubbles to a given section,” he says.

According to Frode Lundsteen Hansen, this method of forming the up to 240,000 micro-bubbles per second per metre has a number of advantages compared to the technology installed at the front of the hull.

Bubbles can be generated more efficiently and be more easily controlled along the bottom of the hull, and it is possible to cover a more flat-bottomed ship.

Marine Performance Systems also advertises fuel savings of between 8 and 12 percent, depending on the ship.

An increase in the number of orders

Both of the technologies can be installed both on existing ships and those still in construction.

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And there are quite a few ship owners who choose to do that.

An example of one of the bands with fluidic oscillators that create about 240,000 micro-bubbles per second per metre along the ship’s hull. Illustration: Marine Performance Systems.

New Scientist describes how, four years ago, British shipping analytics firm Clarksons Research had only registered a few dozen ships with air lubrication systems.

Today, there are 78 of them, and at least 155 are set to be installed within the next few years.

This trend is also in line with Marine Performance Systems’s orders.

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Since 2020, they have installed their technology on two ships. Three more will follow before the end of the year.

“Next year has a really good pipeline for us. I can’t put exact numbers on it, but we have a double-digit number of orders,” Frode Lundsteen Hansen says.

Potential for tens of thousands of orders

He explains how he and the other co-founders of Marine Performance Systems threw themselves into the bubble technology back in 2018, when they saw that the shipping industry was having difficulty meeting the emission reduction requirements.

“The ship owners have already had the opportunity to invest in technologies such as air lubrication, but it is only now that they are held responsible for the ships’ emissions that there is an interest in investing,” Frode Lundsteen Hansen says.

And the current energy prices also help increase interest, believes his colleague, COO and co-founder of Marine Performance Systems Fulko Roos.

“Everyone agrees that the current oil prices are here to stay. Some believe that they will increase in the future,” he says.

Therefore, there is enormous potential in the field of air lubrication, both Fulko Roos and Frode Lundsteen Hansen believe.

And there are tens of thousands of ships on which the technology could potentially be installed.

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“There are around 90,000 sea-going vessels worldwide. About a third of them have the right geometry and age to have the technology installed. For example, in connection with regular docking and service inspections,” Fulko Roos says.

With cruise ships, tankers, and container ships from all over the world as potential customers, there is plenty of room for all players on the market, the founders of Marine Performance Systems believe.

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