The impending 2020 0.5% sulphur cap on marine fuel is putting pressure on shipowners and operators to decide which path they will take in complying with MARPOL’s Annex VI regulations. Shipowners must assess the merits of the three main commonly accepted compliance options – switching from Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) to distillates, the use of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) as a marine fuel, or by installing exhaust gas emission cleaners (scrubbers).
There are benefits and disadvantages to each, with the size, age and value of the vessel impacting on suitability. LNG still needs significant investment in infrastructure and bunkering standards and is primarily suited for newbuild vessels. LNG installation also requires substantial upfront capital investment which is unlikely to be an issue for major operators, but might influence smaller carriers.
Distillate or distillate-based low sulphur fuel is expected to be the most widespread option, although the future cost and availability of the fuel is unknown. In January this year lubricant manufacturer Total Lubmarine cautioned that while lower sulphur fuel should technically be cleaner and less prone to generate corrosive by-products, a consistent quality of blended fuels may be a challenge to achieve at all bunkering ports.
Scrubbers could be an attractive compliance option enabling the vessel to continue to burn lower cost HFO. Installation costs range from $2m - $6m per unit so significant capital expenditure is required. However, the wide spread between the price of HFO and the more expensive marine gas oil (MGO) means that the cost of installing scrubbers could be recouped in just a few years.
According to Clarkson’s Research, the number of vessels reported to be fitted with scrubbers has risen to 240 as of 1st December 2017 and scrubber manufacturer Wartsila reporting 24 orders for scrubbers in the last quarter and 77 for the year as a whole. The sentiment among many in the industry is that scrubbing will play a significant role in meeting post-2020 emissions regulations standards. About a third of commercial shipping will install a scrubber system and will continue to burn sulphur fuel oil by 2030, according to a recent report by naval architecture and engineering consultants, Foreship. Early in 2018 Irish Continental Group announced that it had ordered the world's largest cruise ferry by vehicle capacity and it will include scrubbers.
A further boost for scrubbers came with the call from environmentalists for a ban on the carriage of non-compliant fuel unless the vessel is using an approved compliance method.
Amidst all this debate and conjecture, it is crucial for shipowners that they take the best option for their vessels and operations to ensure compliance with the regulations. For those looking to scrubbers as a solution, they will need to fully understand both the regulatory and operational implications, and will need accurate monitoring to ensure compliance with associated regulations.
Wet scrubbers use wash water to ‘clean’ emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. It is this water that must be accurately monitored at all times to avoid discharges that may exceed regulations and damage the environment.
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The ClassNK Certifiied Sea Sentry wash water monitoring system provides assurance that shipowners and operators are compliant with wash water discharge regulations.
Chelsea Technologies Group (CTG) has direct experience of compliance and the high standards demanded by regulators. CTG’s Sea Sentry scrubber wash water monitoring system has the capability to accurately measure the required parameters of water in closed loop scrubbers, providing accurate data that proves compliance with wash water regulations.
CTG's Sea Sentry provides a fully autonomous wash water monitoring system which monitors both the water inlet and outlet of wet exhaust gas scrubber systems. The system analyses wash water to ensure that it is compliant with environmental regulations which reduce potentially high levels of contamination in exhaust gas scrubber wash water discharge.
Closed loop scrubber systems present a unique challenge when monitoring water as the recirculation process darkens the water, making it difficult to obtain an accurate PAH measurement. It is by adapting the monitoring process to not only measure the turbidity and absorbance levels, but to apply these values as a correction to the PAH measurements, that accurate readings can be taken. If the readings are not accurate, owners are risking significant fines or detention.
It is essential that crews have a thorough understanding of the regulations, monitoring procedures, and the analysis and interpretation of the data. CTG works closely with shipowners, the leading global scrubber manufacturers and the Exhaust Gas Cleaning System Association to provide operators with the knowledge and expertise they need to operate with the highest level of confidence in their system and in proving compliance under the IMO criteria. Sea Sentry is certified by DNV-GL and ClassNK and is the gold standard solution which measures the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, absorbance, turbidity (to ISO 7027: 1999), temperature and pH of scrubber washwater.
The route to 2020 compliance is complicated and there is no “one size fits all” option. Ship owners and operators must weigh up the costs and benefits associated with each option although there is increasing sentiment that scrubbers will have an important role to play. But with increasing environmental regulation, accurate monitoring will be essential to provide operators with confidence in the reliability and accuracy of their systems to remain compliant and enjoy continued access to markets.