The prime mover in the maritime industry is the diesel engine. A single propulsion engine of a modern container ship can cost around $1 million and circulate up to 70 tonnes of lubricating oil. This critical fluid is subjected to a wide range of contamination factors in addition to its normal, unpredictable service life.
Historically, quality control has been performed by a combination of rudimentary field tests conducted by shipboard engineers and laboratory analysis of samples submitted to the supplying oil company. It has long been recognised that the time gap between receiving the results of lab analyses and the questionable security of relying on stressed shipboard staff to perform and interpret oil tests was an area of considerable vulnerability. To date no affordable technology exists to deliver real-time analysis aboard ship. A ship is an isolated community constantly moving around the world in a hostile operating environment. The engine and the ship are at risk when lube oil fails.
POSSEIDON set out to remove this vulnerability by delivering technology to provide sensor systems to measure real-time lube oil quality, plus additional benefits for operators and the environment by optimising lubrication oil use and enhanced understanding of the oil and equipment for the crew, operator and OEMs. It also enables oil suppliers to eliminate wasteful practices.
POSSEIDON addressed the development of a complete sensor-based processing unit that can continuously monitor a ship's lubricated systems to provide scrutiny over serviceable life enabling crews to predict degradation, anticipate problems and take remedial action before damage and failure occurs.
This extends engine lifetime, avoid loss of performance and can prevent catastrophic failures. There are also environmental benefits as the optimisation of lube oil reduces the quantity of spent lubricant destined for disposal (2 million tons/year).
POSSEIDON monitored the main lube oil properties (viscosity, water-in-oil, base number and total impurities) that indicate degradation and contamination. This provides more precise understanding of actual engine status and timely scheduling of remedial actions incorporating proactive maintenance towards condition monitoring. These include replenishment for optimising lube oil conditions for engine operation, worn component replacement to suit the vessel's schedule and surveys based on real conditions as opposed to arbitrary time periods.
An important objective was to reduce/eliminate dependence on land-based analysis and vulnerability to sudden contamination. The unique operating environment aboard a ship provides the challenge of integrating shipboard data management and expert/control systems, including transmission to and from remote locations.
The work plan was organised into groups of activities:
- development of a precise definition of user requirements and architecture of the sensor, including electronic and software architecture and prototype specifications;
- assessment of the sensor fundamentals by studying actual lube oil and determining the relationship between various parameters and oil quality;
- determination of the calibration patterns for the various parameters;
- design and development of the optical IR sensor;
- identification of the measurement principles for the TBN (total base number) sensor and development of its design and fabrication;
- development of the viscosity sensor concept and overall design, fabrication, interfacing testing, electronics, software development and data processing. Similar issues are addressed for the impurity sensor and the sensor unit integration development;
- development of the sensor-processing unit, development of distributed ship/ground communications and the interface for delivering data into the shipboard management system;
- development of an intelligent support software such as data fusion, condition-monitoring strategy, integrated troubleshooting and risk management and best practices for human interaction;
- testing, revision and validation of the technology.
The overall results of the project are very positive and promising for the future. The primary objectives of the project were achieved:
- The development of an expert platform for the oil analysis based on marine oil samples.
- The development of the sensor system based on different measurement principles.
- The development of the sensor electronics.
- The establishment of the relation between the optical information in the infra-red and near infra-red range and the oil quality.
- The establishment of the relation between the magnetostrictive attenuation and the viscosity of the oil.
- The development of a software of the data analysis and display of the results.
- The set up of the test rig.
- The testing of the sensor system under real term conditions.
All the partners emphasise the positive project course, the interesting cooperation between the partners with important inputs for the future and the positive project results. Nevertheless it is of crucial importance and the project consortium proudly state that the project goal has been achieved.