UK's Royal Fleet Auxiliary New Fleet of Tankers to Use GE Drive Technology for Energy Efficient Hybrid Propulsion

Wed, 24 October 2012

With the global naval sector looking to deploy more energy efficient vessels, GE’s Power Conversion business (NYSE: GE) is supplying its electrical propulsion drive train technology for the U.K. Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s (RFA) new fleet of Military Afloat Reach and Sustainability (MARS) tankers.

When completed, the four, 37,000-ton MARS tankers will be the United Kingdom’s next-generation class of large, fast-fleet tankers that will deliver fuel and fresh water to Royal Navy vessels around the world. GE’s drive train will be installed as a key part of the ships’ hybrid propulsion configuration that is inherently more fuel efficient than conventional propulsion. The next-generation MARS tankers are scheduled to enter service beginning in 2016.

The RFA is replacing its existing, single-hulled tankers to meet International Maritime Organization pollution regulations as well as more stringent European Commission environmental regulations. An amendment to MARPOL regulations (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships 1973 and together with the Protocol of 1978) requires tankers to be double-hulled.

Hybrid propulsion systems combine electrical and mechanical propulsion technology to turn the ship’s propeller throughout its operating range of speeds. When the ship operates at moderate and low speeds, the propeller shaft is turned using GE’s electric motor and variable speed drive controller system. Meanwhile, at high speeds the diesel engine or gas turbine is connected directly to the propeller through a gearbox.

This hybrid configuration is an exceptionally versatile solution and is particularly suited to the fluctuating operational scenarios encountered by naval warships and auxiliary vessels. Using an electric propulsion motor powered by the ship’s generating sets to run the propeller saves fuel, reduces emissions and reduces maintenance costs of the main engines, since the generating sets are running to meet other electrical needs on the ship.

”Our electrical drive train technology will offer the Royal Fleet Auxiliary’s new fleet of MARS tankers a highly energy efficient, flexible and integrated power and propulsion system available to direct power as needed in support of their crucial military operations around the world,” said Paul English, marine vertical leader for GE’s Power Conversion business.

GE is supplying its electric drive systems to Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Co., Ltd. in the Republic of Korea (DSME), which was awarded the contract for four MARS tankers by the U.K Ministry of Defence in March, 2012.

With the system design, engineering and project administration plus substantial elements of the propulsion system’s manufacturing being led by Power Conversion in the U.K., this contract will contribute to the safeguarding of the company’s 1,500 jobs across the country including its Rugby and Glasgow sites.

GE will begin delivering its systems for the first MARS tanker in the fourth quarter of 2014 and is scheduled to finish supplying equipment for the fourth MARS tanker by the second quarter of 2016.

The MARS tanker contract reflects a growing trend among the world’s leading navies to use GE’s electric propulsion technology. Other orders include the Royal Navy’s Type 23 frigates, Queen Elizabeth class aircraft carriers and Type 45 destroyers, the U.S. Navy’s Zumwalt destroyers and the French Navy’s Mistral class.

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