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State of the art in electric propulsion –

viewpoint on redundancy

Sami Kanerva Jan-Fredrik Hansen

Marine & Turbocharging Marine Systems
Helsinki, Finland Billingstad, Norway

Abstract— Available solutions for redundancy in electric hand, too simple configuration would increase the risk of total
propulsion are outlined, emphasizing their benefits and loss of propulsion.
drawbacks. Two different state-of-the art solutions of redundant
electric propulsion are presented. The first example is a cruise Another feature to be aware of in modern design of marine
ship with two azimuthal thrusters, both of which are equipped power systems is the tendency to increase the number of
with 18 to 21 MW dual-stator synchronous motors and driven crossovers, changeovers etc. This means that a lot of
by two voltage source inverters (VSI) in a redundant dependencies are introduced in the system which in some
configuration. The phase shift between the stator windings in cases may be hidden, and hence reduce the total availability,
each motor is 30 degrees, and the motors can also operate with see Fig. 1.
only one stator system in case that another system is lost. The
second example is LNG carriers, where one propeller is driven This article will focus on transportation vessels where
through a gearbox by two 12 to 15 MW dual-stator synchronous redundancy in the electric propulsion design ensures a safe
motors. The motors are supplied by VSI-type frequency and reliable operation for the intended purpose, however
converters with double inverter units and supply units, allowing keeping the complexity of the system at a minimum.
each motor to operate in half power mode in case of a fault in Examples on typical configurations are presented,
any of these modules. The both configurations provide 75% concentrating on two large application areas, namely cruise
redundancy in case of the most common single faults without ships and LNG carriers.
notably increasing the cost and complexity of the system.

From the ship operator’s point of view, redundancy is part
of the performance. Any sudden faults at open sea should
never prohibit further operation, since it would set the crew
and passengers in danger and result in costly service actions.
Certain level of redundancy is nowadays required by
authorities and classification societies, but also shipowners are
increasingly asking for redundant solutions in order to
increase reliability and availability. The redundancy
requirements vary from ship type to ship type, from full 100%
redundancy, meaning full normal operation in case of any
single failure (typically for Dynamic Positioning operated
vessels and standby vessels) to 50% redundancy where
operation at a reduced power level is acceptable in case of
single failures (typically for transportation vessels).
The level of redundancy is usually a trade-off between
availability and simplicity. High availability requires higher Figure 1. Illustration of the system complexity.
redundancy level, that is, more installed components, higher
complexity and higher cost. Also the failure rate would
probably increase with more installed equipment. On the other

978-1-4244-3439-8/09/$25.00 ©2009 IEEE 499

II. ELECTRIC PROPULSION IN TRANSPORTATION VESSELS This has resulted in significant dimensioning benefits for the
power plants, since VSI-based drives can operate at high
A. Cruise ships power factor and low harmonic distortion regardless of the
Electric propulsion is nowadays applied on practically all load conditions. On the other hand, the classic converter types
cruise ships without exceptions, because it is by far the most were typically configured for dual-stator motors with inherent
economical approach to combine the requirements of high redundancy. The first VSI-drives did not have this feature, but
hotel load and variation in the load profile. As the cruising recently also redundant configurations have been developed
business has boomed and vessels have increased in size and [1].
passenger capacity, the requirements for comfort, safety and
High-power propulsion drives commonly utilize medium
availability have gained notable importance. Azimuthal
voltage frequency converters based on three-level VSI
thrusters are popular in the high-end cruisers, since they
topology. The rated voltage is typically between 3 and 6 kV
provide improved efficiency and maneuverability, low noise
and the rated current accordingly up to 4…5 kA. The power
and vibration levels, and flexibility in the engine room design.
semiconductors in the inverter units are normally either high-
Most of the cruise ships are configured for two propellers, voltage insulated gate bipolar transistors (IGBT) or integrated
mostly because of redundancy and feasible power limits of gate commutated thyristors (IGCT), which both have their
electric drives. Dual-stator motors supplied by parallel benefits. IGBT is a well-known component in low voltage
frequency converters are commonly utilized at the highest applications, and is also largely available for medium voltage.
power ratings, because the maximum current ratings of IGCT is an improved version from widely used gate turn-off
frequency converters are typically much lower than those of thyristor (GTO) with low switching losses and high reliability.
electric motors. In addition, such solutions provide
redundancy and reduce harmonics in the electric system. III. REDUNDANCY IN ELECTRIC PROPULSION

B. LNG carriers A. Level of redundancy

Electric propulsion in oil & gas transportation vessels is Redundancy of a generic system can be understood as
mostly applied for vessels with special requirements for having a full-scale spare system available in case of
operation profile, ice going capabilities or which have the unexpected faults. In normal operation, the redundant system
possibility to utilize gas as fuel. may be operating idle in parallel with the main system, or the
systems may share the load equally. This approach is
The increasing focus on environmental conditions and beneficial, when the reserve power is needed without
safety gives all the players in the marine market more pressure interruptions and the number of parallel systems is high. It is
to develop new solutions. Electric Propulsion is an attractive also possible that the spare system is normally not running at
solution in this respect, and in 2003 this system was all and only taken into service when needed. This approach is
introduced for Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Carriers, and has advantageous, when the systems have been designed for
more or less become a standard for these vessels. The main optimal performance at full load and process shutdown is
motivation for the change was the increased efficiency and allowed in case of faults.
hence reduced fuel costs, and as the usage of Natural Gas as
fuel on these ships are almost 100% the emissions are very Although the full-scale redundancy may beneficial in
low compared to traditional Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) fueled certain applications, it is often not an economical solution
ships. because of over-dimensioning. If the process utilizes only one
main system, a spare system doubles the initial cost and
Most of the LNG Carriers with electric propulsion are footprint requirements of the system. The level of total spare
utilizing the single propeller configuration as the conventional capacity can be reduced by multiple parallel systems, for
ships. The electric part is split into two separate systems instance four parallel systems with one redundant system only
giving a 50% redundancy on this part. Further redundancy is requires 25% over-dimensioning.
implemented in some key equipment as described in coming
sections and examples. In terms of initial cost and footprint, partial redundancy is
an economically viable alternative. Especially in propulsion, it
C. Drive technology is generally not feasible to install spare capacity onboard and,
At present state, a typical propulsion drive above 10 MW on the other hand, full power is not necessarily needed from
comprises a synchronous motor fed by a frequency converter. the propulsion train at all conditions. The level of redundancy
Several new solutions have been lately presented on in such systems is expressed as the percentage of available
superconducting and permanent magnet technology, although power versus the total rated power in case of a single fault. For
commercial shipbuilding still prefers traditional synchronous example, two or four parallel systems have 50% or 75%
motors because of the efficiency, power factor, reliability and redundancy against single faults, respectively.
experience on previous references. At lower powers, the most
B. Fault tolerance
competitive solution is generally an induction or permanent
magnet motor. As the redundancy is a measure of available capacity after
a fault, it also needs to be considered, how the systems handle
The frequency converters for propulsion drives have the faults at the time they occur. At the highest level of fault
undergone a transition from cycloconverter or load- tolerance, operation will continue without interruptions
commutated inverter (LCI) to voltage-source inverter (VSI). regardless of the fault. For partially redundant systems, the

faulty system will be disconnected and the application will 3) Frequency converter
automatically continue at lower capacity. Due to the power ratings of frequency converters, high-
A slightly lower level of fault tolerance can be identified in power drives typically utilize two or more converters in
cases, where an interruption is allowed for a short period after parallel. The principle is presented in Fig. 5. However, this
the fault. Typically, the automatic protection will shut down configuration has relatively low level of redundancy and fault
the application and possibly disconnect the faulty system, tolerance, because the converters are hard coupled to the same
before the remaining systems can be started again. In stator winding. Fig. 6 presents a redundant configuration, in
improved configurations, the whole process may be which the two converters supply a dual-stator motor.
automated. 4) Drive components
At the lowest level, only the most critical components of
C. Redundant drive configurations the drives are redundant. Such components typically include
The following chapters describe the basic configurations, data links, control boards, shaft encoders, excitation units, DC
which are used for gaining redundancy in the propulsion links or even whole inverter units. The level of redundancy
systems. The solutions not only provide different levels of and fault tolerance in the whole systems is strongly dependent
redundancy and fault tolerance, but also affect on the system on the number of redundant components and is usually
cost and complexity. The actual systems often combine specifically agreed on case-by-case basis.
several solutions and are specifically engineered to meet the
requirements and optimize the balance between system cost IV. EXAMPLE 1: CRUISE SHIP
and productivity.
A. Overview of the propulsion system
1) Drive train Typical characteristics of the cruise ships are alternating
A simple propulsion system with only one drive train, as speed profile, high hotel load, low noise and vibration, and
illustrated in Fig. 2, is extremely vulnerable in fault situations. strict requirements on safety and availability. Especially with
When there are two propulsion trains in parallel, half of the increasing vessel size, diesel-electric propulsion system can
rated power is available regardless of any fault in the system. usually provide the most economical solution to fit these
Such configurations provide high level of redundancy and characteristics. Such system allows for high flexibility in the
fault tolerance, but the system cost is high. electric plant and machinery layout and enables high level of
2) Propulsion motor redundancy in all parts of the propulsion system.
The cost of redundancy can be reduced by coupling two Figure 7 presents a modern propulsion system for large
motors into a single shaft. Fig. 3 presents a configuration, cruise vessels. The electric plant with 11 kV main
where the motors are mounted directly to the shaft. Another switchboards is powered by four diesel generators, and there
configuration, shown in Fig. 4, utilizes a reduction gearbox, are two separate drive trains with propellers. Each of the drive
when the motors are smaller in size and can be mounted side trains comprises two parallel frequency converters with drive
by side. The both configurations are capable of running the transformers, auxiliary devices and excitation units, supplying
shaft with only one motor in case of a fault in the other drive Azipod® propulsion units with dual-stator synchronous
system. motors.
The system layout features high level of redundancy in all
parts of the propulsion system. In two-propeller configuration,
at least 50% of the rated power/torque is available after a fault
in the main switchboard, electric motor or the propulsion unit
Figure 2. Simple propulsion system with one drive train. itself. After a single fault in any other part of the system, at
least 75% of the rated power/torque is retained.

Figure 3. Two motors on single shaft. Figure 5. Two parallel converters supplying a single-winding motor.

Figure 4. Two motors coupled through a gearbox. Figure 6. Two parallel converters supplying a double-winding motor.

G G G G The frequency converters operate normally in master-
follower mode, where the master receives a speed reference
from the upper control and creates the torque reference for the
follower. In case of any fault in one of the converters, the
system will automatically continue with one converter as the
faulty converter is switched off. Because of electrical
isolation, service actions can be performed on one converter
while the other is still operating. When the converter is
switched back into operation, the system will continue with
the full available power without interruptions in the


A. Overview of the propulsion system
Traditionally the LNG Carriers have been propelled by
steam-turbine propulsion system consisting of single fixed
Figure 7. Propulsion system of a cruise vessel with two propellers. pitch propeller, gear box, steam turbine and a dual boiler
system. The LNG Carriers are carrying liquid gas at a
temperature of -163oC in insulated cargo tanks. The
B. Azipod® with synchronous motor temperature is kept cold by the insulation level and natural
Azipod® is an azimuthal thruster, where the propulsion boiling. This means that a certain amount of the boil-of gas is
motor and propeller are located outside the hull and can be taken from the cargo tanks and used for powering the ship
steered freely in any direction. Benefits of this solution are propulsion system via the steam plant. Additional HFO has
low vibration and noise levels, high efficiency, excellent been required as supplement to provide enough propulsion
steering capability, and flexibility in the design and layout of power for the required service speed of 19,5knots.
the plant. The propulsion motor is a dual-stator synchronous The steam-turbine propulsion system provided the
machine with brushless excitation system. Typical propulsion required reliability and maintenance level for this type of
power for a single Azipod® is around 20 MW in large cruise vessels. However, the efficiency of the propulsion plant is
ships. much lower (approx. 30%) compared to combustion engine
The synchronous motor has two stator windings with 30 propulsion systems (approx 45 to 50%). With the introduction
degree phase shift. The basic concept is similar to the motors of Dual-Fuel four stroke combustion engines in the early
used with cycloconverter, but the motor is specifically 2000, new ways for more efficient propulsion system were
designed for VSI supply. Due to the pulsed voltage supply, the opened. Combined with electrical propulsion plant the Dual-
stator insulation must withstand higher voltage stress and the Fuel Electric Propulsion (DFEP) has become more or less
common mode voltages on the shaft must be mitigated. standard for newbuilding of LNG Carriers of the size less than
200 000 cbm. Since 2003, about 50 LNG carriers have been
The phase-shifted configuration with two separate stator delivered or ordered with electric propulsion.
windings provides redundancy and fault tolerance, because the
motor can also operate with one stator winding. Due to the Most of these ships have been ordered with a configuration
winding layout, the stator systems reside in separate slots of single fixed pitch propeller powered by two electric motors
providing isolation and low mutual coupling between the via a twin input/single output reduction gearbox, as shown in
systems. In addition, certain harmonic components are Fig. 8. This configuration provides redundancy in the
cancelled in the air gap because of the phase shift between the electrical part, but using basically the same mechanical single
stator systems. This results in substantial reduction in the shaft-line configuration as for the traditional steam ships. A
torque ripple, noise, and also the motor losses [2], [3]. few of the vessels have been ordered as twin shaft-line
propellers, however still with a reduction gearbox at each
C. Frequency converters shaft-line. This is due to arrangements and cost considerations
by the building yards, although the electrical system and
Each motor is supplied by two independent frequency equipment is identical in both cases.
converters in redundant configuration. Both converters have
their own rectifier and inverter units, intermediate circuits, Typically four or five Dual Fuel engines are powering the
control boards, supply transformers, excitation units, cooling electrical plant, which consist of two 6,6kV main
systems and other auxiliary devices. They also run their switchboards and two 6,6kV cargo switchboards. The
internal control systems independently, being only connected propeller is powered via the electric drive system comprising
through the outer control. The rectifier units are typically four propulsion transformers, two frequency converters and
passive type because of the efficiency, and there are two synchronous propulsion motors.
accordingly separate braking resistors for the emergency crash
Besides the efficiency gain, which was the main
motivating factor for changing the system, also the other
known benefits of electric propulsion are present:

of the power level that requires double inverter units in the
frequency converter. The double winding does not provide
any special design compared to single winding, only taking 6
phases out to the terminal box instead of 3. Hence, the motor
can be operated with a single winding in case of faults in the
power supply or in the other winding.
This provides additional redundancy on the motor side, as
75% of the total power/torque is available for certain faults
without increasing the complexity of the propulsion motor
fabrication and system design.

C. Frequency converters
In principle there is one frequency converter per
propulsion motor. However, each converter consists of several
input and output modules in order to match the required
propulsion power. This gives some possibility to implement a
certain level of redundancy without increasing the complexity
and cost. For these ships, each converter consists of double
Figure 8. Propulsion system of an LNG carrier. rectifier modules and double inverter modules. The applied
redundancy is implemented in a way that it is possible to
operate the converter system in half power mode for the
• High efficiency also in the lower power range, for following cases:
example when sailing at reduced speed.
• One propulsion transformer or related circuit breaker
• Redundancy in the electrical power, distribution and is out of operation.
propulsion plant. A minimum of two split on the
electrical side gives a reliability and availability at • Failure in one rectifier module
least on the same level as the traditional steam turbine. • Single failure in one inverter module
• Increased maneuverability and crash stop In all these cases, the converter will trip and restart in half
performance. This is ensured by the excellent torque power mode. For the failures on the input side, half power will
characteristics of variable speed electric drive be available for the converter and operation can continue with
systems. both motor windings. If the failure is on the output side, the
fault will be isolated from the motor by opening the related
B. Gearbox and synchronous motors
output isolator, and the operation can continue with half motor
The LNG shipping industry is very familiar with using torque.
gearbox solution in combination with steam turbines. Hence,
the use of a reduction gear box (twin input/single output) was VI. CONCLUSION
a natural choice, when electric propulsion was chosen for the
single propeller vessels. Also the initial cost and arrangement State of the art in electric propulsion was presented from
solutions were better than compared to other possible the viewpoint of redundancy. Emphasis of the presentation
configurations, such as tandem motors etc. For the twin was on commercially successful solutions applied on
propeller arrangements the use of gearbox was not the first passenger and transportation vessels. After reviewing the basic
choice in the early stage but considering cost and arrangement redundant configurations, examples of the propulsion systems
benefits this solution was also applied for this system. were presented for cruise ships and LNG carriers.

This means that the motor and drive configuration is A typical propulsion system of a large cruise ship provides
practically the same for the both configurations. The redundancy in all components, from the engines to the
propulsion requirement for LNG Carriers is in the range of 25 propellers. The azimuthal thrusters are powered by dual-stator
to 30MW. In this power range, it is natural to have two synchronous motors, which in turn are supplied by two
propulsion motors rated about 12 to 15MW each. This gives independent frequency converters in redundant configuration.
automatically 2 x 50% total electric redundancy, which is a The system provides minimum 50% redundancy in terms of
minimum requirement for this type of vessels. Hence for any available propulsion capacity against the most severe faults in
single failure, at least 50% propeller torque would be available the system, and the most common single faults only cause
from the electrical propulsion system. 25% loss of the available capacity without even shutting down
the system in between.
The propulsion motors are of standard synchronous
design, which provides the highest efficiency and lowest The electric propulsion system of a single propeller LNG
weight to power ratio at this power level among the available carrier uses a gearbox for two medium-speed synchronous
designs today. The motor speed is around 675 rpm, which motor drives. The motors have two stator windings, which are
allows the construction yards to use gear box with single stage supplied by frequency converters with several input and
design. The motor has two stator windings, basically because output modules. The drive system from the power plant to the

gearbox provides 50% to 75% redundancy against faults, REFERENCES
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