New Institute to Target Dirty Marine Diesel

green and white leafed plantsNew Institute to Target Dirty Marine Diesel

A Hong Kong shipping executive has pledged up to $4.1 million to fund a research program at the University of Southern California to reduce emissions and improve combustion efficiency in engines.

Kenneth Koo of Tai Chong Cheang Steamship Co. (H.K.) Ltd (TCCHK) says collaboration between industry and academia is needed to substantially reduce the greenhouse gas emissions and harmful pollutants emitted by conventional large bore two-stroke single-acting marine diesel engines used by the world’s merchant shipping fleets.

“The best way to initiate change is to partner with an institution of higher learning,” says Koo, TCCHK’s group chairman and CEO. “Let’s come up with the designs that work and bang on the maritime walls of industry.”

The problem Koo wants to solve is significant. Most of the world’s merchant ships, including tankers, container ships, and bulk carriers, use large diesel engines that emit significant amounts of carbon dioxide and toxic pollutants.

Compounding the problem are the lower-priced, lower quality fuels typically used by merchant ships, as well as the modest emissions standards for their engines.

Koo intends to work with the USC Viterbi School of Engineering to establish the TCC Institute for Emissions Reduction from Marine Diesel Engines. The first phase of research will be conducted at USC, with the goal of producing lab-scale prototype technology that can be scaled up for eventual testing in actual full-size engines.

“Our goal is to reverse, recover and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, while also conserving fuel and reducing emissions harmful to health and the environment” says Koo. “I believe we have a responsibility to be good stewards of the environment, and we are willing to do our part to reduce the impact on climate change caused by our ships.”

Koo intends for his company to lead the way by funding research from his own charitable foundation in order to radically change the operation of marine Diesel engines for the better.

Viterbi Dean Yannis Yortsos says the school is thrilled to be working with TCCHK. “We applaud Kenneth Koo for his interest in conducting truly path-breaking research that could improve combustion efficiency, while saving fuel and substantially reducing pollution,” says Yortsos. “He is a real visionary and we are very pleased to be working with him and the TCCHK Team.”

Captain Vinay Patwardhan, TCCHK’s director of group planning and development and a merchant ship captain, notes that the design and method of operation of large diesel engines is virtually unchanged from 100 years ago.

“Combustion efficiency is only about 50 percent,” Patwardhan says. “We believe a huge improvement approaching complete combustion can be attained with transient plasma ignition, and we intend for USC to conduct research to develop prototype technology that could be truly revolutionary.”

In response to Koo’s vision, USC has proposed a five-year research plan that will proceed along two paths:

* A combustion study that will compare and measure differences in conventional Diesel engine combustion and Diesel engine combustion assisted by transient plasma ignition,

* A nano-second pulsed power study that will develop lab-scale prototype transient plasma ignition equipment to achieve more complete combustion in Diesel engine cylinders that can then be scaled up for evaluation on full-size engines.

Koo intends to engage engine manufacturers and shipping owners around the world to commercialize and fully implement the technology.

USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professors Fokion Egolfopoulos (Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering) and Martin Gundersen (Electrical Engineering) will be the principal investigators.

Koo visited USC on Wednesday, February 17, to sign a Memorandum of Understanding laying the groundwork establishing the TCC Institute for Emissions Reduction from Marine Diesel Engines. He also toured USC labs and met the prospective research team.

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