VTT to explore use of bio- and waste-based oils for ships, power plants

  • Research & Development

In a three-year Business Finland BioFlex project, Finnish research services provider VTT and partners will assess how suitable fuel oils made from biomass and waste plastics are for ship diesel engines and power plants. 

As explained, the aim is to determine “the most ecologically and economically sustainable way to replace fossil fuels”.

The increase in wind and solar power requires load-following capacity to flexibly compensate for gaps in electricity production on windless and cloudy days, according to VTT.

Power plants that use fuels will continue to be part of energy systems, but there are differences in their flexibility. Conventional coal- or biomass-fired steam boilers are not capable of load changes that are as fast as those of natural gas-fired gas turbine power plants or the most flexible power plants of them all — internal-combustion engine power plants, VTT said.

Internal-combustion engine power plants use natural gas or heavy fuel oil in diesel engines. In order for large diesel engines to be environmentally sustainable both on land and at sea, it is necessary to find bio- and waste-based alternatives to fossil fuels. These will be identified and evaluated in the BioFlex project coordinated by VTT.

“Our goal is to find the most ecologically and economically sustainable way to replace fossil heavy fuel oil in ship and power plant diesel engines,” Anja Oasmaa, Senior Principal Scientist from VTT, said.

“We compare different methods of industrially producing fuel oils from, for example, waste plastics or biomass, such as harvest residues from forestry and agriculture. We are also conducting experiments to examine the suitability of the oils for applications.”

In addition to seeking a sustainable solution for the production of load-following capacity, the BioFlex project also aims to support the objective of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to halve greenhouse gas emissions from marine traffic by 2050.

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