Rolls-Royce is re-inforcing its position in China to supply MTU engines for the nation’s tug boats with a new R&D test bench in the country
With its high horsepower MTU diesel engines powering generators, plant, railway locomotives and marine equipment the world over, Rolls-Royce is pursuing its localisation strategy into the Chinese market with the establishment of a new Research and Development (R&D) test facility in Suzhou.
The Rolls-Royce Power Systems business unit responsible for the MTU products is strengthening its R&D capabilities in China with the new MTU test bench, which co-incide with celebrations of 25 years of the Rolls-Royce location’s existence. The R&D test bench can accommodate MTU engines with a power output of up to 3,600 kW and will be used to test parts, engines and complete systems for power generation and industrial applications.
According to Eugenia Valente, President Rolls-Royce Solutions Greater China, the new R&D test bench is a testament to the strong commitment Rolls-Royce has to the Chinese market.
“It allows us to do all product qualifications in China, close to our suppliers, production sites and end customers, realising our China strategy ‘local for local’. Not having to send back and forth abroad the locally sourced components anymore is also supporting and aligned to our efforts to reach net zero carbon.”
R&D Test Bench
The new R&D test bench in Suzhou will first be used for test runs of gensets based on MTU 16V 4000 engines, starting in 2022. It is suitable for testing a wide range of versions of the versatile Series 4000 engine with a further upgrade having been planned for 2022: The capabilities will be extended to testing MTU Series 2000 engines as well.
The company isn’t a newcomer to the Chinese territory, having opened its first facility in Suzhou 25 years ago to provide customers in China with faster and more efficient after-sale services in applications such as railway, marine and power generation. Suzhou later became the third production base for MTU engines globally at that time, responsible for the assembly of Series 2000 gendrive engines.
However, with the new test bench, the localisation strategy of Rolls-Royce Power Systems in Suzhou is now covering the whole process ranging from sales and services to manufacturing and R&D.
“China has been a key strategic market for Rolls-Royce Power Systems for a long time and clearly is an important engine for global economic development. We remain committed to supporting the sustainable development of China’s industry with our activities in Suzhou and other locations,” says Valente.
The power output and the high speed characteristics of the MTU engine is ideally suited to marine applications, particularly for use in tug boats, a market that is strong in the territory of China. The new R&D test bed facility will therefore play a significant role in the development and testing of products for the Chinese marine industry.
To that end, Rolls-Royce and the Zhenjiang Shipyard have signed a strategic cooperation agreement to jointly expand their commercial marine business in tug and workboats powered by high-speed engines for the domestic Chinese and export market and to provide customers with optimised marine systems.
The partnership will combine the high-speed marine engine products and services of Rolls-Royce Power Systems business unit and the strong shipbuilding capacities of Zhenjiang Shipyard, integrating the technical strength and business insight of both companies, and enhancing their competitiveness in the commercial marine market.
The initial focus of the joint venture is to promote the development of tugboats with MTU high-speed engines, which fits in with Zhenjiang Shipyard’s specialism in manufacturing workboats.
According to Yan Guo, President of Zhenjiang Shipyard, the company has strong research and development capabilities in the areas of full-rotary tugboats, marine workboats and public vessels.
“Under this agreement, we will promote the application of MTU high-speed engines in full-rotary tugboats and marine workboats,” he says.
High Speed Benefits
Both companies can see great potential in the market for high-speed marine engines in mainland China as well as globally. For the application in tugs, high-speed engines – ie engines with a speed of more than 1000 rpm – bring several advantages: The vessels can be built in a more compact way and are thus more manoeuvrable, making them especially suitable for narrow and sheltered waters such as natural deep-water harbours. High-speed engines also help operators save fuel and thus reduce operating costs while at the same time minimising CO2 emissions. So far, Rolls-Royce has sold more than 480 MTU engines for tugs and workboats which successfully serve with customers worldwide.
With their excellent performance and compact size, MTU marine engines are widely used all over the world, providing high power while offering more maintenance space, and fully meeting the requirements of high-performance tugboats for speed, operability, volume and weight. In addition, thanks to the application of advanced technologies such as high-pressure common rail and electronic injection, MTU marine engines offer excellent low-load torque, low fuel consumption and maintenance convenience.
While the R&D test bench in Suzhou is primarily concerned with applications for the technology in local markets, there is also the pressing requirements for reducing emissions, something which Rolls-Royce Power Systems division is addressing in conjunction with other research locations at the company’s disposal.
Currently, Rolls-Royce is building a new fuel cell demonstrator that provides alternative fuels and fuel cells to enable the production of carbon-neutral MTU engines. The demonstrator being built is a 250kW unit for testing lower power applications such as standby, prime and UPS power generation.
Alternative fuel for a carbon neutral MTU
Rolls-Royce Power Systems is making inroads into hydrogen fuel cell technology at its Friedrichshafen R&D test facility where a 250 kW demonstrator is in the process of being set up to test future zero-carbon energy systems.
According to Andreas Schell, CEO of Rolls-Royce Power Systems, fuel cells will form an elementary part of the Rolls-Royce product portfolio for sustainable systems.
“We firmly believe that fuel cell technology is set to make a huge contribution to a successful energy turnaround. That’s why Rolls-Royce sees it as its mission to assume a pioneering role in fuel cell applications,” he says.
Dr Peter Riegger of Rolls-Royce believes the greatest benefit of a hydrogen motor is when it is run on regeneratively produced hydrogen because this enables polluting and climate-damaging gas emissions to be fully eliminated.
“This gives fuel cells a huge potential to become a major technology for decarbonizing propulsion and electrical power supply systems,” he explains.
Much has already happened at Rolls-Royce Power Systems’ Friedrichshafen Plant in recent months, with the complex hydrogen infrastructure having now been installed and the test cell set up complete with its four low-temperature PEM fuel cell modules.
Designed at the company’s plants in Ruhstorf (Bavaria) and Friedrichshafen, the control system has now been fully refined, cooling and air conditioning are on the roof, and a rack system enables simple maintenance, allowing individual system modules to be replaced as required.
The energy systems using fuel cell modules from the automotive sector have been put through their paces on the test stand and Rolls-Royce engineers are more than happy with the results.
“Power flexing characteristics and performance are excellent, and as expected there are no vibrations or no loud noises”, says Riegger.
The next step is to connect all four demo modules together and hook up the batteries and power circuit. Once this is done, the demonstrator will be used for test purposes, and to show interested parties which applications the system is suitable for.