Green Ray project targeting methane slip from LNG-fuelled engines wins EU backing

The Green Ray project, led by a consortium of companies across the shipping supply chain, has won funding from the European Union to develop solutions minimizing methane slip from marine engines.

The CMA CGM vessels will be fitted with a broad range of Wärtsilä engines, systems and solutions.(Source: CMA CGM/Wärtsilä)

The funding worth €7 million has been secured through Horizon Europe, the EU’s key funding program for research and innovation.

The project is coordinated by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and it brings together shipyard Chantiers de l’Atlantique, ship owner CMA CGM, classification society DNV, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, ship manager MSC Cruises Management, non-profit organisation Revolve Water, energy major Shell and technology group Wärtsilä.

It will focus on the development of on-engine technologies for low-pressure dual-fuel engines – both 2- and 4-stroke – as well as a novel aftertreatment concept. The goal is to advance the systems to a high state of technology readiness, including demonstrators installed on two newbuilds and one retrofitted to an existing vessel. All the technologies developed in Green Ray will also be fully capable to utilize bio- or synthetic methane instead of fossil LNG. It will run until 2027.

Wärtsilä 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.

Wärtsilä 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. Both technologies will be demonstrated at sea in real application during the project in collaboration with the Green Ray partners.

As the use of LNG as a marine fuel is accelerating, the issue of methane slip – unutilized and thus unburned fuel escaping into the atmosphere from engines and across the production and supply chain – is seen as one of the main challenges to wider uptake. The overall goal of the project is to advance the environmental and climate benefits of LNG as a ship fuel.

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

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

Shell has developed a proprietary methane abatement catalyst system that has been lab tested and scaled up to a field demonstration, where it was proven to be effective in reducing methane slip (over 90%), 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. We are continuously working to improve the value proposition of LNG through dedicated technology research, and we are keen to develop potential solutions to minimise methane slip at such a relevant project as Green Ray,” explains Alexander Boekhorst, VP Gas Processing and Conversion Technology at Shell.

“This research will allow us to build on the continuous improvements made in reducing methane slip from engines over the past twenty years,” said Sebastiaan Bleuanus, General Manager, Research Coordination & Funding, Wärtsilä Marine Power.

“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.”

LNG has been described as a transitional fuel for the shipping industry for years now, and a practical solution for shipowners who want to act now on their emissions and not wait on the sidelines.

Investments in LNG dual-fuel vessels were record high last year. LNG and other alternative fuels make up 4.5% of the fleet when looking at the gross tonnage and 44% of the orderbook, data from Clarksons Research shows.

That being said, two major issues have been associated with LNG as fuel, the methane slip and its well-to-wake profile pointing to the fact that shipowners who have invested in the LNG pathway will need to shift to renewable synthetic LNG (e-LNG) in the long-term.

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