Consortium working on minimizing methane slip from LNG-powered engines

The Green Ray project, a consortium consisting of several firms, has secured European Union funding to develop solutions minimizing methane slip from LNG-powered engines.

According to a statement by Wartsila on Monday, the project has received funding of around 7 million euros ($7.4 million) from Horizon Europe, the EU’s funding program for research and innovation. The project will run until 2027.

Coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Green Ray project brings together several companies from across the shipping value chain.

The partners include shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique, ship owner CMA CGM, classification society DNV, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, ship manager MSC Cruises Management, non-profit organization Revolve Water, engine maker Wartsila, and LNG giant Shell.

Launched in 2022, the project will develop on-engine technologies for low-pressure dual-fuel engines – both 2- and 4-stroke – as well as a novel aftertreatment concept, Wartsila said.

“These solutions will be advanced to a high state of technology readiness, including demonstrators installed on two newbuilds and one retrofitted to an existing vessel,” it said.

Bio-LNG and synthetic methane

All the technologies developed in Green Ray will also be fully capable to utilize bio- or synthetic methane instead of fossil LNG, according to Wartsila.

Moreover, Wartsila will develop technology specifically for low pressure 4-stroke dual fuel engines that enables methane slip reduction, increases efficiency and lower operational costs at all engine loads.

This technology targets the largest four-stroke engines on the market as widely used by cruise ships, ferries, and gas carriers, it said.

The tech firm will also develop an on-engine technology for 2-stroke engines around a patented LNG injection system to reduce methane slip from tankers, container ships, etc.

Wartsila will demonstrate both technologies at sea in real application during the project in collaboration with the Green Ray partners.

The Green Ray team has already conducted its first emissions studies onboard Wasaline’s LNG-powered Aurora Botnia, according to its social media.

The ship’s propulsion is based on a hybrid solution featuring four Wartsila 31DF dual-fuel engines, the firm’s LNG Pac storage solution, and batteries.

Methane slip one of the main challenges to wider uptake of LNG fuel

Wartsila noted that the use of LNG as a marine fuel is accelerating, driven by a “well-developed supply infrastructure, a clear transition to cleaner fuels and significant air pollution and climate benefits.”

Wartsila sees the issue of methane slip – unutilized and thus unburned fuel escaping into the atmosphere from engines and across the production and supply chain – as one of the main challenges to wider uptake, it said.

“Methane slip has become an important factor in ship owners’ decisions about whether to use LNG fuel,” Kati Lehtoranta, principal scientist, VTT, said.

“With these promising technologies we aim to reduce the slip contributing directly to reduction of the total greenhouse gas emissions, opening this pathway to even wider segment of the maritime market,” Lehtoranta said.

Methane abatement catalyst system

Also, Shell has developed a proprietary methane abatement catalyst system.

The statement said that the system was proven to “be effective not only in significantly reducing methane slip (over 90 percent), but also in handling typical compounds that can degrade the catalyst, via the inclusion of a guard bed.”

“Shell’s climate ambition to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 will require us to explore a range of avenues that have the potential to help us, our partners, and customers to decarbonise the existing LNG value chain,” Alexander Boekhorst, VP gas processing and conversion technology at Shell, said.

“We are continuously working to improve the value proposition of LNG through dedicated technology research, and we are keen to develop potential solutions to minimize methane slip at such a relevant project as Green Ray,” he said.

Sebastiaan Bleuanus, general manager, research coordination and funding, Wartsila Marine Power, said this “research will allow us to build on the continuous improvements made in reducing methane slip from engines over the past twenty years.”

“Taking these solutions for newbuilds and retrofits to near commercial readiness will be an important step for the long-term viability of LNG as a marine fuel,” he said.

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