Efficient Technology: Just Add Oil and Water

Oil and Water
Stock Image of Oil and Water

Published May 27, 2015 1:17 PM by Kathryn Stone

A New Zealand ferry company is bending the old rule of never mixing oil with water in an effort to find more fuel efficient technology.

The Interislander ferry Arahura is currently running trails using Fuel Oil Emulsion (FOE) technology, which combines oil and water in a process that leads to more complete engine combustion with less harmful waste discharge. The company is experimenting with the technology in the hopes of increasing the operating efficiency of vessels across its entire fleet.

Multiple industry studies have shown that FOE significantly reduces NOX and particulate matter emissions in engines using the technology. In addition to the environmental and financial saving associated with FOE, the reduced emissions also contributes to safer working conditions and results in cooler running engines that require less maintenance.

Malcom Sims, the engineer in charge of the project seemed hopeful about FOE’s capabilities saying “The outcome looks as though it could reduce our use of fuel and the level of emissions as well as giving a significant financial saving.”

The current trial will take place over a three month period and is a follow-up to a 2013 demonstration, which showed significant promise for the technology. In the first trial FOE showed fuel savings between three to five percent, which could slash fuel consumption by up to 2 million liters a year.

If the trials prove successful, Interislander may look into adopting the technology across all its vessels.  Sims stated that, “While these are still early days, there is definitely scope for potentially installing the technology across the fleet.”

The 13,621 gross-ton Arahura was chosen for the study because of its over three-decade operational history. According to Interislander, the vessel provides a reliable platform that will allow the tests to be carried out in a controlled manner.

FOE technology can be easily applied to already existing vessels as no engine modification is required to utilize the technology. Additionally, the fuel emulsion can created just prior to combustion by combining oil and water with an additive that allows the emulsion to form and remain stable.

Funding for the project is being provided by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority grant, which encourages business to carry out demonstration projects on emerging efficient technologies that could have widespread applications. The current trial is being independently monitored and consists of a one-month baseline test with traditional fuel to use as a comparison.