Lowering fuel consumption on the high seas

Atlas Copco’s oil-free and energy efficient screw blowers are key to Silverstream Technologies’ innovative fuel-saving air lubrication technology for ocean-going vessels.

Powering large cruise ships and merchant vessels requires an enormous amount of energy, and shipping companies are always looking for ways to reduce fuel costs. One recent innovation, developed by London-based Silverstream Technologies, is an air lubrication system incorporating Atlas Copco’s air compressor and blower technology that reduces hull drag and improves efficiency. Silverstream is the first company to evidence fuel savings using this patented system.

The air lubrication system uses a series of carefully positioned air release units on the ship’s hull near the bow, which create a carpet of micro-bubbles. This carpet reduces drag, which in turn minimizes the amount of fuel required to propel the vessel forward. “Air lubrication helps our customers save up to 10% on fuel on larger vessels,” says Noah Silberschmidt, CEO at Silverstream Technologies.

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At the heart of the system is the need for reliable air compressor technology. “The system uses a constant and dependable supply of compressed air,” explains Stephen Potts, Head of Supply Chain at Silverstream. “Atlas Copco’s ZS55 oil-free screw compressors provide this – giving us the right combination of cost, performance and reliability.”

Energy efficiency is an important factor, as air lubrication is more effective when the compressors or blowers are themselves highly efficient. “Atlas Copco’s ZS compressors are equipped with Variable Speed Drive technology (VSD) that automatically adjusts the flow depending on sailing speed. This reduces the energy costs with up to 30% compared to conventional lobe blowers, and helps our customers optimize their energy efficiency,” says Klaas-Willem Roest, General Manager, Marine Competence Center, Atlas Copco Compressor Technique.

Also, since the air lubrication system releases air directly into the ocean around the vessel, it is important from an environmental perspective to ensure that the air output carries no pollutants. Stephen Potts explains: “The ZS oil-free system is perfect for Silverstream since it gives reliability and pollutant-free output, thus supporting our strong environmental position.”