When it comes to saving fuel, industries get on board

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When it comes to saving fuel, industries get on board

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Korean Air saved 44 million gallons of fuel last year by installing winglets on aircraft and removing fine dust from engines. [JoongAng Ilbo]

Hyundai Merchant Marine received a phone call from the Norwegian offshore classification society DNV in May that provided a tempting offer.

It asked whether the Korean logistics company would be interested in remodeling a ship to save fuel. Hyundai was immediately interested as it has been looking for ways to improve fuel efficiency amid the drawn-out recession and create more efficient vessels that would benefit clients.

Employees at Hyundai Merchant Marine and DNV jointly developed the idea of ship “plastic surgery” as an innovative way to save fuel.

Korean companies from shipbuilders to construction equipment manufacturers are waging a so-called “war on fuel,” and the unique technique is how Hyundai Merchant Marine plays its part.

It became the first company in Korea and the second in the world to successfully modify a part of a vessel to raise its fuel efficiency.

In collaboration with the Norwegian organization, it remodeled the protracted low front part of its 8,600 TEU container vessel Hyundai Brave.

The process lowered the “bulbous bow” by 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) and reduced its circumference and weight to enhance fuel efficiency by more than 3 percent.

Thanks to the successful plastic surgery, the Korean logistics company now saves 700 million won ($619,743) per year on fuel costs.

Airline companies are also concerned about fuel costs, which make up 30 percent of expenses, and are focused on reducing baggage load.

For instance, Asiana Airlines has required that flight attendants reduce the weight of personal baggage by one kilogram. It also digitalized a 500-page manual to save two kilograms and reduced drinking water carried on aircraft.

For its part, Korean Air has removed fine dust from airplane engines and adopted winglet technology that helps reduce drag as planes fly through the air.

In total, the airline managed to save 44 million gallons of gas last year, or about 17 billion won through its fuel-efficiency improvement measures.

Automakers, heavy equipment makers and shipbuilders are also rolling out products that save fuel.

Renault Samsung Motors unveiled its plan to introduce an SM5 that is equipped with a 1.6-liter engine at the Seoul Motor Show in March. It can generate 190 horsepower with a fuel efficiency of 13 kilometers per liter (30.6 miles per gallon), which surpasses the capacity of two-liter turbo engines installed in medium-sized vehicles.

Kia Motors’ super-small 2013 Ray, released in September, features a Kappa one-liter turbo engine that boosted maximum horsepower by 36 percent and fuel efficiency by 5 percent compared to the 2012 version.

And in the construction industry, Doosan Infracore and Volvo Construction Equipment Korea released newer versions of fuel-efficient excavators in March.

Doosan Infracore’s 38-ton excavator DX380LC-3 is 24 percent more fuel efficient than previous models, and Volvo’s EC300D excavator has adopted an eco-friendly fuel saving system.

An excavator can use up to 100 million won worth of fuel in one year, according to industry insiders, so raising fuel efficiency by 20 percent could save 20 million won annually.

Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s largest shipbuilder, aims to replicate the success of the construction equipment industry. It has already developed a hybrid forklift and an electric excavator.

Other shipbuilders are currently working on developing fuel-efficient engines and other devices.

Industry insiders say that these widely varied efforts that span industries prove that companies can make significant savings by focusing on fuel costs.

“Cutting fuel consumption and enhancing fuel efficiency is simply not an option to consider,” said an employee at Hyundai Heavy Industries. “It’s a matter of survival.”

By Park Jin-seok [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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