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2021 October 4

Construction of marine engines in Russia

Russia has set itself a challenging task of ensuring domestic production of ship equipment since the dependence on products of foreign origin means the loss of added value. Perhaps, the most crucial segment is the one manufacturing ship engines, a heart of any self-propelled ship.


Among the key types of modern ship engines are turbine steam engines (boiler-and-turbine or nuclear-powered units), diesel engines and gas-turbine engines as well as combined powerplants. As of today, power plants of most surface ships are fitted with gas turbine engines due to their light weight, small size, high availability, low vibration, reliability, opportunities for considerable automation and remote control. Gas turbine units are of high significance for Russian shipbuilding amid absence of locally produced diesel engines of required types. 

Installation of combined powerplants (diesel/gas-turbine or gas-turbine units with an possibility of electric propulsion) allows for even more efficient use of gas-turbine engines’ advantages.

In the Soviet Union, gas-turbine engines were designed by Mashproekt bureau and manufactured by Zarya plant in Nikolayev. Modern gas-turbine engines for ships have a higher fuel efficiency and a higher capacity as well as a longer service life as compared with similar gas-turbine engines of the Soviet times. The range of gas-turbine engines includes М70FRU, М90FR and diesel/gas-turbine unit М55R.

The М70FRU is an engine of the 4+ generation corresponding to the level of its foreign analogues. This 10.3 MW engines was initially intended for missile boats and ships of various classes. However, no serial production was ordered since the ships were mostly equipped with gas-turbine engines manufactured in Ukraine.

Today, United Engine Corporation (UEC) is ready for serial production of such engines. The М70FRU has two modifications: М70FRU–R with a reverse turbine for corvettes and frigates and М70FRU-2 for air cushion landing ships.

The naval М70FRU engines have quite a wide range of application: they can be used as part of main propulsion machinery on warships including frigates, corvettes, air cushion landing ships, both as main propulsion engines and boost engines.

The naval М90FR engines of up to 20 MW can be used as part of diesel/gas-turbine unit М55R designed for application as the main propulsion unit for frigates of Project 22350. By today, UEC has supplied four М55R engines to Severnaya Verf shipyard for the Admiral Golovko and the Admiral Isakov frigates. Besides, UEC has developed a modification of the М90FR engine for installation on a future corvette. UEC is also looking into creation of 25MW engines based on М90FR. Designing of a dual-fuel modification of the М90FR engine is also under consideration. It will be in demand in the oil & gas industry, particularly for drilling rigs.

М90FR can be integrated into power units on ships of foreign origin. Appearance and advertising passports for М90FR export sales are being developed. Further customization can be required with some development of the engine components (jacket, exhaust line, engine inlet) to fit into systems of certain ship designs.

Diesel/gas-turbine unit М55R is intended for ships of Project 22350. Apart from 20MW М90FR, the system includes a 3.2 MW diesel unit 10D49, a reducing unit RО55R and control systems. Its characteristics are comparable to those foreign products.

It is important that all materials and components are of domestic origin. A lot of work has been done towards import substitution in the segment of ship components with some of them created from scratch (involving domestic suppliers) and others created through validation of similar components used in М90FR (М55R) and produced in Russia before.

Service life of the above mentioned gas-turbine engines meet the current standards including those of foreign counterparts. Further modernization of the М90FR and М70FRU engines will be probably conducted in the framework of works on development of a new frigate (replacement of obsolete fuel injection equipment, oil system blocks, local control and vibration monitoring systems). High repairability of engines is ensured by the design solutions.

In general, Russian gas-turbine engines for marine application are claimed to be of higher fuel efficiency, higher power and longer service life than those produced in Ukraine while featuring characteristics comparable to engines manufactured beyond FSU.

Advanced technologies have been used for production of gas-turbine engines. Additive technologies are getting increasingly widespread in development of engines, the first positive experience of their application in the segment of marine engines was obtained in the course of the М70FRU-R development. Currently used domestic materials produced through application of additive technologies have characteristics not inferior to those of similar foreign engines.

Lean production methods are also in use to reduce the time of designing, introduction into the production process and production as it is. Rejection of excessive approvals at the phase of introduction into the production process allowed for a prompt assembling of products and their supply to customers. To ensure ultimate and timely implementation of production tasks, 5S and visual guidance methods as well as chain management is used at workplaces.

Moreover, new materials are being developed for thermal barrier coating of engine hot section blades so that inlet gas temperature can be raised thus enhancing the capacity of power units.

Under the agreement with the Ministry of Industry and Trade of the Russian Federation, R&D works are being conducted to develop new high-temperature corrosion-resistant alloys (Splav R&D); creation of a ‘digital twin’ of a 25-MW gas-turbine engine with a reducing unit. UEC will thus get an applicable technology/platform for creation of digital twins which can be used when developing new products. There is also a project on creation of a clean combustion chamber for marine gas-turbine engines (MEKS-Morye R&D).

By Sofya Vinarova

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