The ongoing process towards a reduction of ship's air emissions
The shipping industry has taken a variety of measures to reduce air emissions from ships during the last decennium.
The International Maritime organisation (IMO), the UN body in charge of maritime safety and environment has taken in 2008 a range of measures to reduce the sulphur content in marine fuels (MARPOL Annex VI). This package of reductions will eventually result in a 0.5 % limit of sulphur content in marine fuels in 2025. A table summarising the package is mentioned below.
Marpol Annex VI - Sulphur Oxide (Sox) 6
- 2010 – emission control area (ECA) limit reduced to 1%
- 2012 – global limit reduced to 3.5%
- 2015 – ECA limit reduced to 0.1%
- 2020 – global limit to 0.5% but a review in 2018 (with the authority to delay implementation) will determine if this is achievable.
- 2025 – global limit to 0.5% notwithstanding the result of the 2018 review.
Compliance can be achieved by alternative fuels or abatement equipment.
The shipping industry welcomed this global regime on sulphur reductions. Indeed, in a de facto global industry which shipping is, regional measures are unworkable. Only Global (IMO) legislation will give practical results and is applied to all flags globally. However, the European shipping industry was surprised and alarmed by the decision to apply a 0.1% limit as from 2015 in the Emission Control Areas (ECAs) at this moment the Baltic, North Sea and English Channel: A decision taken in the IMO without an appropriate impact assessment.
Indeed, different studies made by e.g. Finland, Sweden, the UK, Germany and the Universities of Antwerp and Leuven, gave evidence that this decision would result in cost increases in marine oil up to 90 %. This would unavoidably lead to freight rate increases of 30 to 40 % resulting in a modal shift from transport by sea to road transport of 10 to 50 % depending on the route. This would be in sharp contrast with existing co-modality policies leading to a shift from road to sea. Congestion of overland transport and an increase of external cost would be an unavoidable consequence.
Faced with this treat the shipping industry is working on a toolbox of relevant issues to deal with the 0.1% decision. In this context a factual analysis is being made on innovative technical possibilities such as scrubbers and alternative energy sources particularly LNG.
Abatement Technology – Scrubbers
Scrubbers are a diverse group of devices that can be mounted mainly in the funnel of the ship to reduce and/or take out the sulphur of marine fuels. At his stage there are three types of scrubbers notably: sea water scrubbers, fresh water scrubbers and dry scrubbers. To give a feel of what this is all about an example of a sea water scrubber is given beneath.
Though the scrubber producers have launched a huge selling campaign both towards policy makers and the shipping industry, however the tests have up to date not resulted in enthusiasm of potential users. Main concerns are the long term reliability of the scrubbers and a huge question mark on what to do with residues (sulphur) taken out by the scrubbers.
LNG as alternative energy source for shipping
The European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA) and the European Community Shipowners Association (ECSA) started in 2009 with Workshops to analyse the possible use of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) as an alternative to oil.
The rationale for this initiative was to a large extent driven by the problems caused with the 0.1% sulphur as from 2015. Indeed LNG would be a solution to this request giving:
- Sulphur (SOx): nil
- Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) and particle matter: sharp reduction.
- CO2: reduction estimated at 20% with some doubts on the methane slip.
The technology for using LNG as energy source is clearly available in particular for new ships. There are different types of engines on the market such as gas only engines and dual fuel engines (gas/oil).
Producers are Rolls Royce, Wärtsillä, Mann, Mitsibushi. During the workshops organised by EMSA/ECSA different key factors were analysed leaving quite some points on the table for further consideration and action such as:
- Retrofitting of existing ships
- Price evaluation of LNG
- Bunkering possibilities (almost nil on a European basis at this stage)
- Safety Rules on Board and for bunkering
Up to date the main projects with LNG as energy source are with new built ships. Retrofitting is possible but is expected to be very costly and can most probably only be applied on newer ships.
The price evolution of LNG is difficult to estimate. For a long time the oil majors have linked the price of LNG to the price of oil. Recently we have seen a delinking from the oil price making LNG a slightly cheaper option. It is, however, unpredictable how the relation between the oil price and LNG will develop. The oil majors play a key role in this respect.
LNG has to be kept on board in temperature controlled tanks with well defined safety aspects. No big quantities can be bunkered on the ships, consequently bunkering of LNG should be possible in all ports that the ship is calling. At this stage the bunkering possibilities are limited to the places/ports where the tests with LNG are taking place (Norway).
In cooperation with EMSA, the European ports organisation (ESPO) and ECSA are making a survey on the current available LNG infrastructure in Europe.
Key points are:
- Is there an LNG terminal in the port (area)?
- Can you bunker for shipping?
- What safety legislation is applied?
- If not. Are there intentions to provide LNG bunkering facilities in the port and what safety rules would apply for bunkering?
During the process it has become evident that IMO has guidelines for dealing with LNG on board of the ship which will probably become formal rules later. For bunkering (which falls not within the purview of IMO) the only rules available at this stage are national rules applied in Norway. Possibly Sweden will follow the Norwegian example.
The industry needs one set of rules preferably on a global basis.
There is a lot of work going on for using LNG as energy source in shipping particularly in short sea shipping. Taking into account all these elements mentioned above it becomes evident that more time will be necessary to get the outstanding issues cleared. Moreover the cost picture may be an important stumbling block.
All parties commercial and political should coordinate and cooperate on the way forward.
Alfons Guinier, Secretary General European Community Shipowners’ Association
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