Commissioned by TCC Group, a leading international seaborne trade company, researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering have made exciting progress in developing a more efficient method to initiate combustion, providing a breakthrough, technological step forward in clean shipping design. The technology, Transient Plasma Ignition (TPI), would allow marine diesel ships to reduce emissions, increase fuel economy and meet the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) stringent emissions mandate with minimal modifications.
“We are thrilled to approach the cusp of a true clean shipping solution, especially on the heels of the recent United Nations Climate Summit,” said Kenneth Koo, TCC Group chairman. “This epic endeavor strives to achieve reduction in harmful emissions and significant fuel consumption savings without additional investments into peripheral hardware such as scrubbers, chillers, hull coatings or fundamental modifications to the hull. It will be an immense boon for the shipping industry.”
TPI facilitates combustion by using energetic electrons that break the molecular bonds in fuel and air creating an alternate chemistry. This new environment allows for a more complete combustion, minimizing the amount of remaining unburned hydrocarbons, which translates to significant fuel savings and reduced emissions.
TPI – Reversing Efficiency Losses, Recovering Energy & Reducing Emissions
The technology aims to reduce vessel fuel consumption by three percent, which could equal fuel savings up to $5,000 per day, and a reduction in the emission of air-borne pollutants such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and sulfur oxides (SOx) both through its radical chemistry and improved efficiency.
This is especially important since the IMO has officially designated waters off North American coasts as an Emission Control Area (ECA), where any ships navigating in the ECA must comply with stringent emission standards. When traversing waters within the ECA, levels of NOx emissions must be reduced to 1.96 or 3.4 percent (depending on engine speed) by 2016. TPI can help ship engines meet these NOx level requirements. In addition, TPI can indirectly reduce the emissions of SOx by raising fuel efficiency, which will help vessels operating in the ECA meet the 0.1 percent SOx emissions level.
“Unlike other costly emissions-reducing technology, fuel alternatives and retrofits, Transient Plasma Ignition is designed to work in current diesel engines with minimal modifications, making this technology a potential ‘silver bullet’ for shipping companies to meet the ECA standards,” said Yannis C. Yortsos, Dean of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “We are working closely with TCC Group and Amergent Techs to continue developing this technology with the eventual goal of implementation throughout the international maritime fleet.”
“We have seen improvements in many respects, including a reduction in NOx emissions,” said Martin A. Gundersen, Ph.D., Professor of Electrical Engineering and also Materials Science at the USC Viterbi School of Engineering. “This approach is new and fundamentally different because of the change in chemistry that we initiate with this transient plasma process.”
The unprecedented research effort was galvanized in May 2010 by TCC Group chairman Kenneth Koo after witnessing the impasse of the Copenhagen World Climate Summit in 2009 and the International Maritime Organization’s incremental mandate in 2010.
Phase two sea trials are on course to happen before the end of 2014.