Diesel electric battery hybrid vessels: Is it for every vessel?

By Dr. Julius Partridge, Snr. Electrical Engineering Consultant, London Offshore Consultants Ltd., IUMI Professional Partner,

In the face of increased environmental regulations, the marine industry is looking for technological ways to reduce its environmental impact. One such technology currently experiencing rapid growth is the integration of lithium-ion batteries, to convert traditional diesel electric propulsion systems to diesel electric-hybrid power systems.  

A diesel electric-hybrid system offers several potential advantages, including reduced fuel consumption and emissions, both locally and globally, and reduced operating hours for the diesel generators.

These benefits are made possible by the increased operating flexibility of the vessel’s power system and the ability to operate the diesel generators more efficiently. These factors can be summarised through the following functions: load levelling, peak shaving, spinning reserve, anchor/port hotel load and increases in the standby generator set point.

Fundamental properties of lithium battery technology support power system flexibility and explain why diesel electric hybrid vessels are seeing such growth and interest.

However, it should be noted that diesel electric-hybrid systems should not be considered a silver bullet for emissions reductions - the benefits depend heavily on the type of vessel and the application it is used for, though when applied to the right sort of vessel the benefits are clear. Dynamic Positioning (DP) is one mode of operation that offers considerable potential where the batteries can be utilised to reduce the number of generators required and improve the loading on the generators that are running.

Whilst battery technologies have been around for a significant period of time, the capital costs associated with battery systems have fallen dramatically in the last decade as a result of widespread deployment, particularly in the automotive market. These cost reductions have transferred into the marine market, making integration of battery systems onto vessels increasingly attractive.

Deployment of diesel electric-hybrid power systems can bring economic and environmental benefits to the operation of a wide range of vessels. It is, however, important to acknowledge that this is dependent on the vessel type and operation of the vessel.

Full article on LOC Group website.