One of the most innovative ships on the inland waterways is currently the EcoLiner, built by Damen/Bodewes. The EcoLiner is the first ship that combines gas-electric propulsion with tested, low-maintenance propeller shaft propulsion. The ship is equipped with W-PROP, Werkina’s modular power management system for electric propulsion, which saves space as well as weight, fuel, maintenance (costs) and of course CO2, SOX and NOX emission!
An electric propulsion system results in considerable savings on fuel in comparison to conventional diesel technology. How can this be? The biggest savings can be achieved when a ship sails downstream. In that case a big diesel engine will produce little power and perform inefficiently. Clean electric PM machines with a comparable capacity do this much more efficiently. They are in turn driven by three or more small PM generators. Only one generator has to run at optimal capacity when moving downstream in order to keep your vessel at speed. As soon as more power is required, the other generators are started up and you can immediately have the HPs available you are used to.
LNG (Liquid Natural Gas)
The EcoLiner’s generators run on LNG, an alternative fuel that can contribute to emission reduction. It used to be difficult to use this fuel in an electric drive system since it is not easy to adjust generators using this fuel to a stable rpm. For an alternate current system like the EcoLiner’s, this is essential. However, the W-PROP power management does not require any rpm synchronisation and is therefore extremely suitable for LNG. After start-up, all power is immediately available to manoeuver at full speed. Thus a ship can safely sail on one small generator. W-PROP provides an automatic balance between minimum consumption and power increase and decrease.
The W-PROP system generates a lot of data that can be read in the wheelhouse, such as consumption, power, operating hours, breakdowns, etc. The main office can also have all these data available if so desired. The bow thruster, stern thruster and loading pumps can be controlled in the same system, for example, and the integration of a cruise control is an option as well.
Maintenance of relatively small generators is smaller scale, easier and cheaper than that of a conventional diesel engine. For example, the high-output PM generators can be exchanged with any brand and the ship can simply continue sailing even if one of them breaks down. It is also possible to make a separation in the DC-GRID to create independent electric systems. This prevents a breakdown in one system from stopping the other. Thus you save a lot of money in cost and downtime.
View a succinct explanation of LNG electric propulsion
W-PROP uses only high-quality components and technology, aimed at sustainability. For example, the electronics are fluid cooled instead of air cooled which is susceptible to breakdown and releases heat. The simple basic electromagnetic technology renders W-PROP less susceptible to breakdowns than the existing alternate current systems. This results in more reliability, less maintenance and lower cost. In addition, the investment in an electric drive with W-PROP is significantly less than in conventional systems!
New emission standards will go into effect in the next few years, so that governments and sector organisations will examine emissions in inland navigation more critically. Fiscal measures for environmental investments will continue to exist to stimulate cleaner technology, and they will be supplemented by subsidy schemes in the framework of the Environment and Technology Programme (ProMT) and the European LIFE programme. The Ministry for Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment also wants to simplify the administrative and implementation cost of the schemes. W-PROP is taking a big technological step which can count on the support of various stimulation programmes.