A Closer Look inside the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center
Just two months remain until the inauguration of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center on January 15, 2014. Originally conceived for the development of PureSOX and other emission control technologies, it has grown to incorporate far more than just exhaust systems. Now that the majority of the equipment is in place, it is possible to take a deeper look into the details of this remarkable new facility.
Located on the site of the former Aalborg Shipyard in Aalborg, Denmark, the new Alfa Laval Test & Training Center is an imposing structure. The massive ship simulation facility has a testing area of 250 m2, where pride of place is given to a new generation of PureSOX, currently under development. Added to this are a dedicated control room and a training complex for visitors, the first of whom were the Crown Prince of Denmark and the Danish Minister for the Environment, who toured the site during the month of September.
“We’ve said that the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center will be the closest thing on land to the machinery room of a full-sized commercial vessel, and the truth of that becomes clear as the facility nears completion,” said Lars Skytte Jørgensen, Vice President of Alfa Laval Product Center Boilers, which is responsible for the facility. “Nowhere else in the world will you find this range of marine equipment in a full-scale, real-life operating context – except on a vessel at sea.”
An interconnected system
To as great an extent as possible, the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center is designed to mimic the operation of a commercial vessel. For this reason the equipment is not installed as isolated components, but rather as an integrated system complete with heat exchangers and other auxiliaries.
There are several interconnected process lines:
- Fuel line, providing fuel cleaning, conditioning and forwarding prior to the engine
- Integrated water line, combining cooling/process water and ballast water flow
- Steam line, incorporating desalination, waste heat recovery and steam production
- Exhaust gas line, focused primarily on emission control
With the exception of the combined line for cooling/process water and ballast water flow, these lines overlap in exactly the way they would aboard an actual vessel.
What differs from a real vessel is the way the equipment is controlled and monitored. Instead of equipment-specific control systems, the facility has a common control platform to which each component is connected. For the operators and technicians, this creates a single interface that can be accessed remotely from a single screen. All equipment can be steered from a central control room 30 m from the testing area, or even from other Alfa Laval sites worldwide.
The engine and the fuel line
At the heart of the testing area layout, and also connected to the control platform, is a large medium-speed marine diesel engine. This four-stroke, 9L28/32 engine from MAN weighs around 48 tons and supplies approximately 2 MW of output power, which will be fed into the local grid of the city of Aalborg.
Attached to the engine is a PLC for connecting it to the control network, as well as Alfa Laval’s PureVent, a unique centrifugal separator. PureVent will allow the reuse of the oil mist contained in the crankcase gas.
The fuel for the engine, which will be HFO and MDO for the time being, will be treated using a standard setup of Alfa Laval fuel line products. A high-speed Alcap separator has been installed for fuel cleaning, while a new version of the Fuel Conditioning Module (FCM) will handle fuel conditioning and changeover. HFO will be pumped into the facility from outside, where it is stored in a double-shelled 50 m3 tank with insulation and internal heating elements. MDO is stored in a smaller 5 m3 tank.
The integrated water line
The other thing to be pumped into the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center is seawater. This will come directly from the Limfjord, which is a body of water connecting the Kattegat Strait with the North Sea. For the purpose, an 800 m pipeline with a diameter of 250 mm has been built between the fjord and the facility.
On an actual vessel there would be a number of separate water lines. But here the flow diverges from a single inlet into two flows: one for cooling/process water and one to simulate ballast water. Primarily for the needs of the ballast water simulation, a flow of 300 m3/h will be delivered by the pipeline.
The ballast segment of the water line is fitted with a PureBallast 3.0 system, whose main component is a Wallenius AOT (advanced oxidation technology) reactor with a flow capacity of 300 m3/h. The system will be used for customer demonstrations as well as for testing and product development.
The remainder of the water flow will be used to generate fresh water for the boiler and scrubber water cooling, as well as other technical needs. Desalination of the seawater will be carried out by Alfa Laval’s AQUA, a freshwater generator that manages the entire process within a single plate pack.
The steam line
In providing low-salinity water, the AQUA freshwater generator is also an essential part of the facility’s steam line. Water that is not used for cooling will enter a make-up water tank.
The boiler served by the make-up water tank is also a part of two lines, since it is designed to take its heat from the exhaust gas leaving the engine. Alfa Laval is the world leader in this type of waste heat recovery solution, and the construction chosen for this particular boiler is one consisting of bare water tubes.
The steam generated by the boiler will be converted into district heating by means of a steam/water condenser. This, in combination with the electrical power provided by the engine, will make the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center an energy win for the city of Aalborg.
The exhaust line
The exhaust line, which the waste heat recovery boiler is also a part of, will initially be the most research-oriented aspect of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center. In fact, the facility was originally conceived as a means to speed up the introduction of emission control systems. With emission control areas entering into force in 2015, emissions have become a key focus for both Alfa Laval and the marine industry at large.
“With new caps on air emissions approaching quickly, customers want to know that we have the innovative muscle to win the race,” said Lars Skytte Jørgensen. “The resources of the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center give us everything we need to put the introduction of new exhaust gas cleaning systems on a fast track.”
Besides pursuing further developments related to the PureSOX scrubber technology, the facility will be targeting NOX reduction. Having worked extensively with exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) via the PureNOX scrubber water treatment system, Alfa Laval will begin a parallel exploration of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) in a project with official funding from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency. To this end, the exhaust line has been fitted with an SCR unit, developed in cooperation with Haldor Topsøe.
For the purposes of testing, there is also an exhaust gas heater, which will ensure the high exhaust gas temperatures necessary for SCR when the engine is not at full load.
Contributions and opportunities
All of these process lines form a strong platform for research and innovation. Without a doubt, they will lead to faster introduction of new equipment from Alva Laval. Perhaps even more important than product breakthroughs, however, is the promise of breakthroughs in approach. By working with systems instead of components, the Alfa Laval Test & Training Center can add value for ship owners, ship operators and shipyards in a wider scope.
“One of the biggest things we’re exploring here is not the equipment itself, but the integration of that equipment,” explained Jørgensen. “Through tighter integration of the fuel line and steam line, for example, we expect to make substantial advances in energy efficiency. And as we perfect the integrated control system, we’re paving the way for a future many Alfa Laval customers want to see. When they can give us remote access to their systems, we’ll have a more economical option for troubleshooting, updating software and suggesting proactive improvements.”
A taste of this last possibility may be seen at future exhibitions, since the control system will allow a ‘peek’ into selected aspects of the facility from an Alfa Laval stand. In the meantime, however, Jørgensen invites customers to visit once operation is in full swing. “The Alfa Laval Test & Training Center is not only a place where we’re shaping the future,” he said, ”but also a place where Alfa Laval customers can experience it.”