(first posted 2/6/2014) How’s that for a truck with a big engine? Actually, that’s just an eight-cylinder version of the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C; they also come in bigger multiples of cylinders, all the way to fourteen. Want to guess how much power it makes? Hint: in the six figures. How about a walk through?
Let’s take take a look at what makes these giant marine engines work, and work they do, powering the many giant container ships. The largest version, with 14 cylinders, was first installed in the Emma Maersk, and makes 108,920 hp @ 102 rpm, and a planet-rotating 5,608,312 ft/lb of torque at the same speed.
These are real “strokers”, cylinder bore is just under 38″; stroke is a mammoth 98″. That makes for 111,143 cubic inches (1820 L) per cylinder, for a grand total of 1,556,002 cubic inches (25,480 L) for the 14-cylinder version. And it takes some 1,660 gallons per hour to keep it fed. But it’s extremely efficient, exceeding 50% thermal efficiency, roughly twice of typical automotive engines.
These engines are two stroke diesels, with uniflow-exhaust scavenging, essentially similar to the famous two-stroke Detroit Diesels. The have intake ports openings in the cylinder barrels, and the spent gases exhaust via valves at the top of the cylinder head, actuated hydraulically.
Similar to steam engines of yore, these engines have a sliding cross head, so that the piston rod travels only vertically, thus avoiding loading the piston with any lateral movement.
Here’s the crankshaft for a ten-cylinder engine. Note the built in “ladders” to climb down into the base of each crankcase “cellar”.
Workers are inserting the crank bearings. The crank and journals are 38″ in diameter and 16″ wide.
A piston and piston rod assembly. The square base is what connects to the cross head assembly.
A ten cylinder engine awaiting the attachment of its final cylinder. The cylinder liners are die-cast ductile cast iron. Those cylinder bolts look they’re up to the job. This factory is in obviously Korea.
The first 12 cylinder engine completed.
Big diesels aren’t exactly new; here a video of what was once the world’s biggest diesel engine in 1932, a generator in Copenhagen, DK. It produced 22,000 hp, and is still operational, as this video shows.
Wow. That’s all I got. Wow.
To which I can only add, it staggers the imagination.
Now . . . . find a way to put it in a brown, rear drive, sportwagon with a manual transmission.
Sure, but no one except perhaps ONE person on TTAC would buy, USED, of course!
Bet Jay Leno would buy one.
Amazing. Truly amazing.
Years ago I went to see the mechanical systems of a container ship, I don’t have all the details to hand about the engine but it was 28,000hp and the engine room was four or five storeys tall. There was a spare piston and connecting rod bolted to one of the support columns in the corner, beside the walkway, and it was around 4m tall. When we were there they were cleaning carbon from inside the exhaust manifold – workers were actually inside it! There was an access hatch bolted to the manifold.
The bore and stroke were perhaps a little smaller, in the order of 3′ x 8′, and it must have been a high-revving version as maximum power was produced at 105 rpm! The fuel oil had to be pre-heated to atomise for combustion, which was done by a heat exchanger from the exhaust.
That 50% efficiency figure is not to be underestimated, I’m not sure there would be any more efficient way to convert fuel into mechanical energy.
In addition to the main engine there were four 24-cyl CAT or similar generators to power refrigerated containers and a smaller emergency power generator for the ship itself as well.
I’ve actually scraped carbon /oil build up in the exhaust port
I’m just wondering what type of starter is used to get these running. Electric, pneumatic, or internal combustion engine with its own starter? Otherwise, I’m fascinated with this is all I can say.
most are air-start systems but some use fluid-drive motors driven by compressed air
They use compressed air known as starting air for starting these engines.
Shutting down it sounded like some giant medieval dragon coming to rest. Simply incredible.
g.captain.com is another of my favorite web sites. Check ’em out if you ships.
Im a Coast Guard officer and hearing one of those big engines run is just awesome. Ive been in for 21 years and it never gets old, I guess Im just a big kid, haha.
I’ll throw in a shot of a diesel inside a long gone Navy ship for you
I have no idea what I just witnessed.
Tim Allen may wanna put it in his pickup.
That is cool Ive messed about with some big stuff in the turbine world but not the reciprocating stuff, Awesome thanx.
More interesting facts I like about these engines: the piston rods pass trough a seal, called diaphragm, separating the upper “dirty” upper part from the clean crankshaft case. Upper cylinder lubrication is separated from crankcase oil, which can be used for several years.
These engines can virtually use any fuel, from heavy fuel oil to marine diesel oil. Most typically intermediate fuel oils (IFO) are used. Normally, fuel preheating is made with steam, produced from an auxiliary boiler which most of the times works with waste heat from exhaust gases.
Another interesting fact is that these are reversible engines, and are connected directly to the propeller. This size is started exclusively with compressed air.
Wow, it was like something out of the film “Metropolis”. No sexy ladybots though.
Pssst… Don’t let Principal Dan read this – he’ll want to put one in his F-150 and terrorize his school district!
“I’m just wondering what type of starter is used to get these running. Electric, pneumatic, or internal combustion engine with its own starter?”
I was imagining a Coffman starter the size of a siege mortar…
Just thinking, and this engine reminded me – about an article some time ago about one of the worlds’ largest forging hammers somewhere in this country that has been restored and is operating again. Who knows what it’s making?
I cheated and looked it up, so I’ll give someone else the glory of providing the correct answer. But thanks for posting this; I had no idea, and the story of this press is VERY interesting!
MESTA 50.000 ton forging press (now it’s called ALCOA something 🙂)
THE POWER – OH, THE SWEET GLORIOUS POWER!
I got nothing. That is frickin awesome- thanks for posting
When I read hp/tq specs on this my left eye started twitching, I drooled some and I think I even did the Tim Allen tool grunt at my desk. Wonder if I can fit one in a ’41 Flatty Jeep….
Have witnessed the diesel in Copenhagen.
The sound is much more awsome in real life.
And when it slowly turns of, it gets frightening 🙂
Mærsk engines are biiig…
In what vessel types would one use those huge 14-cylinder engines? 😮
Think of a 400 meter long (1300 ft), 65 meter wilde (200+ feet) container ship sailing at 28 knots, you’ll need all the power this behemoth can muster
How about replacing an LS1 engine in a better with this!.
I don’t know what exactly I thought powered large ocean-going ships, but this exceeds expectations.
If I was shown a picture of that crankshaft dwarfing those workers, I’d have assumed it was a photoshop joke.
These engines are great but I’m very curious how it compares to a nuclear aircraft carrier reactor and its propulsion system. If that’s even public information I don’t know.
I’m sure you could google it, but I was always under the impression carriers are steam powered. The steam of course, being produced by nuclear reactors.
I remember being disappointed as a teenager when I first learned that nuclear power plants — all of them, on land or on ships — make power by using the heat generated by the nuclear reactor to make steam, which drives a steam turbine pretty much like your great-great-great granddaddy had on the WW1 battleship he served on.
I don’t know what I thought it did instead of that.
As for efficiency, the nuclear plant is an external “combustion” engine, where the diesel is an ICE, so other things being equal the ICE should be the most efficient because it doesn’t do the extra energy conversion in between the combustion and the engine. And a nuclear reactor actually does two energy conversions in between, using the core-heated steam to heat a second water circuit that doesn’t pass through the core. But when your fuel rods last 20 years and produce as much power as you dare to let them, who cares if it’s the Hummer H1 of large engines!
I would have assumed these are put together in the ship, given how godawful big and heavy they are. But based on the photos, they are built in a factory, and presumably installed in the ship whole. How do they do that?
A big crane would do the trick as it did for CVN-77
As I recall Studebaker-Packard tried to put one in the Loewy Coupe body in 1956 to become the Studebaker Platinum Hawk. Unfortunately, on its first time around the proving grounds test drivers reported the car had a turning radius of 7.2 miles, making for somewhat difficult handling. The understeer was reported “quite excessive.” And the Twin Ultramatic was unable to handle the torque, and fried the converter lockout clutch on its first engagement.
You, Steve, win this post! LOL…
Breathtaking to consider the weight and mass of these powerplants…humbling, in fact.
Thanks for this treatise., I represented Cummins Diesels for a number of years. This report is fascinating.
I’ve got a Volkswagen microbus with a 500 in.³ Cadillac engine in it.
There is a saying
There is no replacement for displacement.
The engine was dyno Tested and only 470 hp.
Still needless to say it is one micro bus that can at least get out of its own way.
Oh, and it sounds a little bit different also.
Have a good day