As word spread in early 2015 about Wärtsilä’s latest engine launch, insiders were quietly hinting that this was to be the most significant shake-up of the company’s product line in some years. “There are quite fundamental differences from our previous engine generations,” explains Kallio.
“The Wärtsilä 31 engine is based on a new modular architecture we have developed,” Kallio continues, “which provides a series of building blocks used to put the engine together. The point of this modularity – if you look, for example, to the automotive industry where this model is frequently used – is that you can assemble a whole range of products with the maximum commonality.”
The first important realisation, then, is that this is more than just a product. The Wärtsilä 31 engine’s flexibility means that an entire family of engines has been created, with diesel, dual-fuel (DF) and spark-ignited gas (SG) versions becoming available.
Flexibility and reliability
The advantages of this new approach are not just production oriented, but make themselves felt immediately in the use phase.
Intended to serve a variety of vessel types requiring main engine propulsion in the 4.2 to 9.8 MW power range, the Wärtsilä 31 meets a variety of needs. In the offshore sector, it is ideally suited for AHTSs, OSVs, drilling and semi-submersible vessels, while in the cruise and ferry sector it enables owners and operators to trim fuel expenses while maintaining high standards in environmental performance. Within the merchant fleet, the Wärtsilä 31 is designed for applications as a main engine for small to medium tankers, bulk carriers and container vessels.
The engine represents a remarkable increase in fuel efficiency, as evidenced by its receipt of a Guinness World Records title soon after it was launched, as it represents the world’s most efficient 4-stroke diesel engine. The resultant fuel savings are also matched by significant extensions to maintenance intervals. For example, the first service on the Wärtsilä 31 is required after only 8,000 running hours, whereas alternative standard marine engines require maintenance after 2,000 running hours. Furthermore, maintenance procedures can be simplified, while the duration and costs of possible conversions can be minimised.
While the engine is being launched initially with Wärtsilä’s marine customers in mind, in the future the new levels of fuel efficiency, fuel flexibility, and operational optimisation it provides will also be brought to bear on the power markets.
The sustainability imperative
Finally, sustainability metrics were a constant consideration during the design process of the Wärtsilä 31, as Wärtsilä’s customers are increasingly conscious of regulatory developments. The new engine has been created to allow them to meet the needs of the future in this respect.
“The engine is designed to meet the most stringent emissions regulations that we can foresee,” he confirms, and continues by pointing out the various courses of action it enables. “Since it has a dual-fuel engine operation possibility, the customer has the option of applying various emission-reducing strategies complementing the standard selective catalytic reduction solution, for example.”
“The Wärtsilä 31’s modularity is a very powerful property,” says Kallio, “allowing us to make the product easily configurable to all kinds of applications. You’ll see this approach at work in all the new engine generations we create. This development establishes a new type of thinking for Wärtsilä – a new way to design and manage a product.”