Tuesday, April 24, 2012

No. 494: Diesel engines for industrial purposes (April 24, 2012)

In an effort to build a sustainable world, diesel engine vehicles are widespread as a means to keep the earth clean in Europe and electric vehicles are regarded as the next-generation vehicles in Japan. Unlike in Japan that is surrounded by the sea, it is supposedly not easy to construct a network of charging stations in Europe where countries are connected by land. Dr. Rudolf Diesel of Germany invented the concept of diesel engine in 1892, and MAN of Germany put it into practical use and built a 4-ton truck powered by a diesel engine in 1923. But it is Japan’s Yanmar that applied diesel engine to industrial purposes. The company built a small diesel engine for industry and agriculture in 1933 for the first time in the world.

Six automakers are the leading producers of diesel engines. However, Japan’s Kubota is the leading company in the industrial fields other than automobile production. Industrial diesel engines are strong and tolerant of continuous operation. Kubota’s diesel engine cleared the fourth gas emission standards enacted this year and obtained the certification from the State of California on July 1 last year, about one year ahead of the enactment. This is the world’s first certification of this kind given to an engine with a replacement of less than 4,000 cc. Kubota’s technology combined the multistage and high pressure fuel injection, electronic control, and the filer to strain particulate matters. It is characterized by the automatic regeneration function that increases combustion temperature to burn out particulate matters before they clog the filter.

Low-speed diesel engines designed by MAN account for 70% of the world market of diesel engines for oil tankers and container vessels. To compete with MAN, Japanese makers focused on other industrial fields, and increased fuel efficiency and improved the mechanism of emission gas purification. Hitachi Zosen installed the processing equipment that dissolves NOx into water and nitrogen using catalyst and urea water just before the supercharger. This technology enabled the company to clear the third regulation set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for the first time in the world. It attracts wide attention worldwide, and the Port of Vancouver reportedly proposed a discount on port dues of ships featured by Hitachi’s technology.

Likewise, low-speed diesel engines designed and built by Mitsui Engineering and Shipbuilding enjoy a high popularity because they are reliable and trouble-free, though they are higher in price than competitive products. In fact, ships powered by the diesel engine built by the company are traded high in the secondhand ship market. According to the IMO, CO2 emissions from marine transport accounts for about 3% of total CO2 emissions of the world. The third regulation stipulates that NOx emitted from ships to be built after 2016 should be decreased by 80% from the level in 2010.

European companies are dominant in the market of diesel engines for vehicles. Japanese companies avoid the direct competition with European companies and establish the presence in other industrial markets including shipbuilding. This is an excellent idea from the strategic point of view. 

Yanmar's tiller built in 1967 is still in active service

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