What will it take to adapt ships' current propulsion systems to the new emission regimes? In order to arrive at a reliable emission-free propulsion train, the entire chain must be investigated: the source of the resistance, the necessary propulsion and the storage of energy.

The transition to sustainable ship power systems requires attention to both the system design and the integration of components. TNO develops solutions for, for example, carbon capture and storage along with the reduction of nitrogen emissions. We also investigate the effects of alternative or blended fuels. Finally, we focus on components of new propulsion systems, such as fuel cells and batteries.


"Existing ships have to adapt to stricter emission regimes," explains Jurrit Bergsma of TNO. "Those ships must be 'retrofitted'. This means that a new engine will be added or that the engine will be adjusted. We mainly work on aftertreatment, for example whereby the CO2 is collected. This concept is already widely used in power plants. The challenge is to bring that to a floating, moving and smaller concept."

Future uncertainty

The sector is also confronted with newly built ships. "These ships have to deal with the uncertainty of the future: where exactly is it heading? We need a propulsion concept that will last for at least 15 years in a future that will contain the necessary requirements. There's a lot of uncertainty in that. Thanks in part to our expertise in the field of road transport, we are able to remove a part of this uncertainty."

International playing field

In the international playing field of suppliers and customers of engines and components, TNO focuses on partners in the Netherlands. Bergsma: "But we are also talking to global parties. We deliver bits and pieces of information and develop concepts into prototypes. Then, for example, a ship's designer or a shipowner takes it and runs with it to actually deliver such a system on a commercial basis."

Would you like to know more about TNO's research into ship power systems or do you see possibilities to contribute to it?