Vaasa laboratory puts fuel flexibility on firm foundations

15 May 2018



One of the strengths of fuel-flexible reciprocating engines and power plants is they provide a degree of future proofing. To better understand the changing needs and requirements of end users and their diverse applications, Wärtsilä continuously investigates alternative fuels. Much of the testing takes place at the company’s fuel laboratory in Vaasa, Finland, where it has amassed a considerable body of experimental expertise in the analysis and assessment of liquid and gaseous fuels.


One of the strengths of fuel-flexible reciprocating engines and power plants is they provide a degree of future proofing. To better understand the changing needs and requirements of end users and their diverse applications, Wärtsilä continuously investigates alternative fuels. Much of the testing takes place at the company’s fuel laboratory in Vaasa, Finland, where it has amassed a considerable body of experimental expertise in the analysis and assessment of liquid and gaseous fuels.

Fuel flexible technology enables power plants to use the most feasible liquid and gaseous fuels, or multiple fuels. In addition to natural gas and other conventional fuels, there are various alternative liquids and gases burned in Wärtsilä’s fuel-flexible installations. These include, for instance, liquid biofuels (LBF), propane (LPG), ethane and methanol.

Wärtsilä’s power plants are tailored to the specific requirements of end users, including fuel requirements that respond to environmental challenges. New, trending fuels such as gaseous biofuels like bio- methane, hydrogen and those derived from waste, have great local, if not worldwide, potential. Although the needs and preferences of customers differ from one country to another, one of the overarching goals is to find the most economic strategies that help address environmental concerns.

“Right now, there is a demand for mixtures of gaseous and liquid fuels. These mixtures provide additional value to power plant owners. The mixing of fuels generates significant savings, and plays an important role in reducing emissions,” says Juha-Pekka Sundell, senior development manager, Wärtsilä Energy Solutions’ Fuel Laboratory Services.

Thousands of analyses of alternative fuels have been carried out at Wärtsilä’s fuel laboratory in Vaasa, Finland. Customers and prospective customers submit samples of new fuels in their search for the optimal mix of cost and quality. Wärtsilä’s fuel laboratory investigates whether the engines can, in fact, burn the new fuels, and provides customers with recommendations regarding fuel quality.

“In addition to the evaluation of fuel properties and testing of the combustion properties of alternative fuels, it is important to investigate the fuel system’s safety-related issues as well. Fuel samples are tested for their energy content and assessed for their fuel leakage related risks,” says Juha-Pekka Sundell.

The evolving fuel landscape, changing regulatory environment, and fluctuating fuel prices, among other things, contribute to the instability of the energy market. For instance, by 2020, all ships outside Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) are required by the International Maritime Organisation to use liquid fuels with a maximum 0.5% sulphur content. Introduction of new emission regulations – such as the European Union’s Medium Combustion Plant Directive (MCPD) 2015/2193 and the update of the Best Available Techniques Reference (BREF) document for large combustion plants – will impact the future fuel choices of stationary power plants. Wärtsilä aims to co-operate closely with plant owners/ operators to support forward-looking decision-making.

“Currently the key consideration in the customers’ choice of fuel is the plant operating cost. I’d also advise considering the heating value, emission outputs, storage capabilities as well as the long-term availability of the fuel when considering investments in new power plants or upgrading existing installations,” says Tommi Rintamäki, general manager of Wärtsilä Energy Solutions’ Fuel Laboratory Services. 

Vaasa Rapid compression machine developed to test gaseous fuels at Wärtsilä’s fuel laboratory, Vaasa, Finland
Vaasa Tommi Rintamäki (left) and Juha-Pekka Sundell (right), with the rapid compression machine at at Wärtsilä’s fuel laboratory, Vaasa, Finland


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