Research into sustainable maritime technology was given a boost here yesterday with the launch of a new $8 million maritime energy test bed at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
While shipping has been recognised as the most fuel-efficient way to transport freight, ships typically use low-quality fuel, especially heavy fuel oil, which emits pollutants such as sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide.
The new facility, the first of its kind in South-east Asia, will do research and try to develop alternative sources of energy or clean fuels, fuel additives to raise energy efficiency, and technologies for cleaner emissions. This includes advanced filters, called scrubbers, which are used to reduce pollutants from exhaust gas.
The facility will also serve as a training platform for polytechnic students, undergraduates and PhD candidates. Students from Singapore Polytechnic's marine cadet programme, for example, will attend internships at the facility and go on training visits.
The facility is funded by NTU and the Singapore Maritime Institute, and opened with the support of the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA).
MPA chief executive Andrew Tan said the collaboration was timely as the maritime sector needed green and sustainable technologies to save on costs, mitigate the effects of climate change and address stricter environmental regulations.
This maritime energy test bed also adds to the NTU's list of green initiatives, including the building of the region's first hybrid power grid to integrate multiple renewable energy sources.
The 1,500 sq m maritime facility is designed to mimic the operations of a vessel, which Professor Chan Siew Hwa, co-director of the Energy Research Institute @ NTU, says is crucial to ensuring that research ideas born in the laboratory are applicable to real-life situations. It comes equipped with a 1.5MW diesel ship engine which can run on most conventional liquid fuel types for energy research, including biodiesel, liquefied nitrogen gas and synthetic diesel.
The facility will also be installed with advanced sensors to track information on energy storage, noise pollution and waste heat recovery.
Prof Chan noted that current research into clean energy for use in the maritime industry is usually done with an automotive engine, which runs very differently from a ship engine.
"When you put the equipment developed for emission control on a real (ship) engine, it may not work or may perform badly. So we wanted to fill that gap."