The past 40 years have witnessed a focus on fuel efficiency that is unparalleled in the history of shipping. In the early 1980s, high fuel prices and the impact of a global economic downturn triggered a drive to reduce fuel costs. Today’s market is not dissimilar but this time around, environmental pressures have been added to the cost imperative. The quest for greater energy efficiency demands smaller engines that can squeeze more power from less fuel. These pressures have had a notable impact on the development of turbochargers.

Today’s fuel costs, environmental demands and challenging business climate have focused attention once more on the turbocharger’s traditional role as a fuel saver. In response, turbocharging compression ratios have reached new heights; ABB Turbocharging’s latest A200-H, designed for high-speed lean-burn gas engines, achieves pressure ratios of around 6.5. In the 1980s, by contrast, pressure ratios of only just over 3.5 were possible.

The development of pressure ratios is far from over. As energy efficiency becomes an ever-greater focus – and as shipping begins its path to decarbonisation – more powerful turbochargers will be needed. Meanwhile digitalisation will enable even more advanced turbocharging strategies. The past 40 years may have been transformational for turbocharging; the next 40 could be even more so.