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AS a key industry player, home-grown Sembcorp Marine - a global leader in integrated marine and offshore engineering solutions - set up Semb-Eco R&D Pte Ltd in September 2014 to undertake research and development (R&D) of green products with its strategic partners.
Sembcorp Marine established Semb-Eco R&D as a subsidiary to continue to co-develop, manufacture and sell green products with its strategic partner, Ecospec Global Technology Pte Ltd, for the marine, offshore and onshore industries. Such green products and systems are necessary for meeting maritime and governmental regulatory requirements.
These green products include gas scrubbers for ships trading in the emission control area zone and onshore power plants, and the ballast water treatment system which would be necessary for meeting maritime and international regulatory requirements by some 45,000 ships trading worldwide.
"To stay ahead of the competition, Sembcorp Marine believes that innovation and creativity are crucial. We aim to strengthen our industry leadership through innovative technological and engineering solutions," says Simon Kuik, vice-president and head of R&D at Sembcorp Marine.
Sembcorp Marine focuses on four key capabilities: rigs and floaters; repairs and upgrades; offshore platforms and specialised shipbuilding. Its key R&D drivers include delivering higher capacity and better performance products; redefining offshore and marine solutions; and enhancing productivity, efficiency and safety in work processes.
In fact, as far back as 2007, Sembcorp Marine set up a dedicated R&D Centre to spearhead and sharpen developments in marine and offshore technology as well as product innovation and process improvements. This is for the long-term sustainability of the marine and offshore industry.
"The R&D Centre focuses on new product development and process innovation to strengthen Sembcorp Marine's core competencies in ship repair, ship conversion, rig building, shipbuilding and offshore engineering. The centre also works on improving our existing technologies and niche products for greater market differentiation," says Mr Kuik.
The Sembcorp Marine R&D Centre generates and manages intellectual property and innovation. It also actively establishes partnerships with tertiary and research institutions.
Semb-Eco R&D's partnership with Ecospec, a Singapore tech company, focus on the development of air emission abatement (scrubbers) and ballast water management solutions, the two products being the outcomes of Marpol (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) regulations imposed on the shipping industry.
"The strategic partnership with Ecospec Global Technologies gives Sembcorp Marine access and opportunity to add value to innovative technologies in the areas of emission abatement system, water treatment management system and corrosion control system," says Mr Kuik.
In response to the Marpol regulatory requirements, Sembcorp Marine and Ecospec Global Technology (Semb-Eco) jointly developed the Semb-Eco LUV Ballast Water Treatment System and Ecospec cSOx emission abatement system.
Ecospec's biological and chemical laboratory provides physical-chemical and biological analyses to determine optimal treatment strategy and methodology for the development of these two systems. In addition, two extensive land-based test facilities, namely the Semb-Eco Marine Laboratory and the cSOx Technology Evaluation and Test Centre, were established to support rigorous full-scale testing and development of the systems, adds Mr Kuik.
"Ecospec's patented ultra-low-frequency technology has been proven to achieve superior performance in the disinfection of marine invasive species for ballast water and SOx removal for engine emissions. Its entrepreneurial technological development complements Sembcorp Marine's engineering expertise to deliver effective solutions that also have a low carbon footprint."
Sembcorp Marine has partnered Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in setting up the Sembcorp Marine Lab @ NTU to focus on research on eco-friendly solutions, use of renewable and clean fuels for marine engines, emission control technologies and other areas related to marine engines.
"Two of NTU's five 'peaks of excellence' - Sustainable Earth and Innovation Asia - are aligned with Sembcorp Marine's sustainable development innovation. NTU's strong commitment to industry collaboration, wealth of expertise and comprehensive R&D resources will help accelerate the creation of value-added, innovative and environmentally-friendly solutions that can enhance Sembcorp Marine's capabilities, processes and commercial solutions," notes Mr Kuik.
The synergistic partnership between NTU and Sembcorp Marine will also develop a strong pool of researchers and engineers to advance Sembcorp Marine's business as well as the offshore and maritime industry in Singapore, he adds.
In the area of emission control technologies, Sembcorp Marine, along with NYK Line, Monohakobi Technology Institute and ClassNK, have teamed up with NTU to conduct research into an exhaust gas cleaning system for controlling SOx emissions outside the Marpol emission control areas (ECAs).
This research will focus on developing next-generation cost-effective scrubbers that comply with SOx emission regulations outside of ECAs, applicable either in 2020 or 2025. The project aims to simplify the operation and reduce the carbon footprint of exhaust gas cleaning systems.
Mr Kuik highlights that Sembcorp Marine Lab has set up a S$10 million R&D endowment fund to be used for R&D projects in the offshore and marine areas and for the establishment of advanced research infrastructures.
Projects already initiated under the collaboration include the development of a prototype electric power generator using eco-friendly fuel cell technology. This breakthrough will eliminate the need to store large volumes of highly inflammable hydrogen on board ships to power fuel cells.
Another project focuses on recovering waste heat from the exhaust gases of marine engines.
"External collaboration with research and academic institutions provides further avenues for our engineering and technical employees to deepen their knowledge. These employees will also gain valuable hands-on experience that will strengthen their ability to translate R&D findings into superior products for the offshore and marine industry," explains Mr Kuik.