The energy transition poses a number of challenges. For industry and infrastructure dependent on diesel gas combustion for power generation, switching to renewables and greener alternatives can be costly and unreliable.

Green Hydrogen – a renewably-sourced fuel heralded as a key enabler of the transition – is still hard to come by. Nonetheless, projects are underway around the globe to ensure its availability in the coming years and Rolls-Royce is poised to maximise the opportunities it presents.

Powering Duisport with hydrogen

By January 2024, two of our mtu hydrogen engines are scheduled for delivery at the combined heat and power plants at Duisport, Germany’s first carbon-neutral container terminal at the inland port of Duisburg.

Throughout testing, the 12-cylinder engines have shown that they’re capable of producing just under one megawatt of power output each, despite challenges. Due to the extremely flammable nature of hydrogen, premature ignition can happen when even a small amount of it mixes with the air. For mtu’s experienced gas combustion engineers, this is just one of the vast differences that require innovative adaptation.

Making combustion engines green

Our engineers have drawn upon the proven resilience of our stationary gas engines to modify and develop the hydrogen engines. For example, the turbochargers within each engine have been enlarged to compress much greater quantities of air, while the cylinders have been designed with lower compression ratios to cater to hydrogen’s fast ignition rate.

Alongside this, additional safety and control measures such as a new engine management system have been introduced to ensure the complex hydrogen combustion process flows smoothly, reducing the risk of uncontrolled combustion and monitoring pressure sensors on the cylinders.

Harnessing hydrogen power sooner

While pioneering projects like that at Duisport are going carbon-neutral in the near future, hydrogen engines remain in low demand. With green hydrogen still a costly commodity, the return on investment can be low.

To address this, our teams are also developing conversion kits to convert existing mtu gas engines to hydrogen ready for when it’s available.

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Delivering a hydrogen ecosystem

The hydrogen engines and converter kits are part of a comprehensive hydrogen ecosystem in development at Rolls-Royce. Alongside these, we’re also developing fuel cell technologies for customers who need continuous but sustainable power solutions.

Both fuel cells and combustion engines will also play a key role in energy storage as we generate more and more power from renewables through the likes of solar panels or wind turbines. Where surplus electricity is produced, this can be used in electrolysers to break down water into oxygen and hydrogen. This hydrogen can then be stored and utilised when wind and solar power aren’t available, making the most of renewable energy at every opportunity.

Source: Rolls Royce


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Issue 90 of Robban Assafina

(Mar./April 2024)


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