The global shipping industry is a big business, with goods being shipped thousands of miles by sea and land. The Emma Mærsk is one of the largest container ships in the world and can haul 11,000 containers. Such a gigantic ship requires a mammoth engine, an engine like the Wärtsilä RTA96C-14 provides the needed power, 109,000 HP to be exact.
[Image Source: Baumann]
Produced by a Swiss company, Wartsila-Sulzer, the machine is a 14 cylinder turbocharged diesel 2 stroke weighing in at 2,100 metric tons. The world's largest engine is 14 meters tall and 28 meters long, bigger than a 4-story building. This engine redlines at 102 RPM but has enough torque to move anything you could dream of. As you might imagine, the machine eats up fuel, with each cylinder using up 6.5 ounces of diesel per cycle. This use of fuel isn't put to waste however as the engine produces 80,000 KW, or enough to power an entire town.
Believe it or not, there isn't just one of the monster engines, there are actual 25 currently in service and 86 more on the way. That may sound like a lot given the size, but with the ever growing shipping industry and the push for ships to carry more cargo, this engine is definitely in demand.
While it does consume a lot of fuel in shear volume, for the engine's size it is actually considered very efficient. High pressure fuel rails are used to supply diesel to individual solenoids valves, improving fuel economy and energy production. The top speed of the Emma Mærsk which currently operates with this engine is 31 knots or 57 km/hr, which is incredible if you consider the size and weight of what is being moved.
As the limits of engineering continue to be pushed even further, there will surely be larger and larger engines. To put it into perspective, the Titanic's engines only had 15,000 HP which is dwarfed in comparison to this engine's 109,000 HP. Constant maintenance is performed on all of the parts of the engine to make sure it stays operational. After all, if it ever broke down there would be millions of tons of products and containers stranded at sea.
Written by Trevor English