So let’s say you just built a supertanker, or maybe a giant cruise ship. You need to power it somehow. You start doing the calculations on how much power you need and you think to yourself, “Crap. I would need 15367 LS1 engines to make the torque I need to move this through the water. What am I to do?!”
Well, you start off by ripping everything off the hull so you can drop one of these bad boys in. Behold, the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C.
In 2006, as a response to the need for more fuel efficient maritime diesels for very large ships, Wärtsilä built the RTA96-C. It is a two stroke diesel capable of up to 108,920 hp and 5,608,312 lb/ft at 102 rpm in its largest (14-cylinder) configuration. If you don’t need that much power, or you just don’t have enough space, you can get 6, 8, 10 and 12 cylinder versions. All versions make 7780 hp out of each 1820-liter cylinder.
In the 14-cylinder version, the engine alone weighs 2300 tons and stretches 89 feet stem to stern and rises 44 feet from the bottom of the crankcase. So, yeah, you’re not just going to carry it down the stairs into the engine room.
It’s a big, powerful engine. It’s also incredibly efficient. The Brake Specific Fuel Consumption (fuel consumed per horsepower) at maximum power is 0.278 lb/hp/hr, and at its most efficient setting it is 0.260 lb/hp/hr. That’s incredible! A typical automotive engine is 0.40 to 0.60 lb/hp/hr. Even still, just due to its enormous size, the 14-cylinder version consumes 1660 gallons of heavy fuel oil per hour. So, in a one week transit it burns through 278,880 gallons. Keep that gas card handy.
The engine is very similar to automotive engines, with one big difference. Rather than the connecting rods running between the crank and the cylinder, the RTA96-C connects the con rods to a crosshead that drives the piston shaft. This allows the piston shaft to move straight up and down, reducing forces on the piston head and seals the combustion oil from the crankcase oil keeping the crankcase oil free of combustion particulates.
So, there you go. One big ass engine for some big ass ships.
[Image Credits: Wärtsilä]