How emissions management is getting smarter

Malte Siegert Malte Siegert discussed NABU Hamburg's air quality project in the city. Image: Rebecca Jeffrey

Advances in smart and affordable air quality monitoring is enabling ports to take action on cutting emissions and reducing risk to local communities.

Environmental Consulting Services company Envirosuite and conservation NGO NABU Hamburg shared the benefits of real-time and increasingly precise and complex data sets with delegates at GreenPort Cruise & Congress 2019.

Chaim Kolominskas, general manager, Europe, Middle East and Africa at Envirosuite, spoke about the benefits of cheaper technology. "Low cost sensors means you could potentially deploy a lot more devices than you could in the past with the same budget."

He said that using more sensors enables projects to get a far better representation of impacts and information needed for decision making.

"We're focused on making vast networks of sensors useful – lots of low accuracy sensors can be better than a few high quality ones," he said.

The lower cost of technology means data can be processed in a different way and be made available to the right people at the right time.

More ability

Ports can now use sensors that move or employ drones or vehicles. This means you can measure things you couldn’t before by  bypassing access issues or in the instance of a dangerous environment. However, work is ongoing on how to use this to better manage a city or an industrial complex.

Comparing sensors to monitoring stations, Mr Kolominskas said that sensors can be managed without technical expertise, and although they are generally considered less accurate than monitoring stations operating on a more complex basis, they might have a similar performance level.

A monitoring station measuring date time and location amongst data for reporting purposes can determine whether a port is the cause. It may be comparing activity against regulatory PM or NOX. He added: "A monitoring network doesn't have a great value for decision making in real time."

Working smart

Traditionally air quality models are designed to measure against compliance. A reverse trajectory model is useful in determining whether a port is the cause of an issue - it can save a lot of time and money in investigating and provide a good scientific basis for deciding whether to take action.

Cloud computing allows you to scale up very quickly - using trajectory or air quality modelling or analysis monitoring - you can process lots of info at same time. You can run trajectories with data covering a whole city and narrow down  to which facilities are causing problems and which operations within a facility. This is useful for rapid response.

Forecasting of meteorology allows you to interpret information - and narrow down time periods when levels of control should be decreased/increased.

Processing change

Getting a good representation of change is important for real time management, said Mr Kolominskas.

"You do need to know if you're moving from a state of acceptable conditions to unacceptable conditions and be confident there is a change because then you can make a decision that drives improvement. The key to driving performance is to take action as and before issues emerge. 10% of activity could lead to 50% of your impacts," he stressed.

"With more powerful modelling you can not only predict whether there is going to be an issue, but you can also predict which populations are at risk , at a particular moment in time, and that gives you the ability to manage a real situation, not a theoretical one . You can then focus activities only where they are needed," he said.

He stressed that ports should leave some space for innovation in the ways that they manage air quality issues.

Hamburg project

Malte Siegert, head of environmental policy at Berlin-headquartered NABU Hamburg, explained how there was only one emissions-measuring station in Hamburg and so the decision was made to implement an air monitoring network on the north banks of the River Elbe.

Launched in April, the network comprises nine sensors from Hamburg-based startup company Breeze Technologies, based in the Startup Dock at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH), which is funding the company.

The sensors, eight of which have been placed as close to the river as possible, measure emissions including nitrogen oxide, particulate matter and sulphur dioxide every 30 seconds, however, the project has found that the “sensors are not very effective in measuring particulate matter,” said Mr Siegert.

He explained that project partner Maritime Data Service can identify emissions from data and link to source. “The organisation can connect AIS data to a sensor to work out which ship is passing by when and causing what type of emissions.”

The project partners already know that 39% of the NOx emissions in Hamburg come from shipping. They don't know about ports specifically, but “80% of the 39% has a direct influence on people living nearby,” said Mr Siegert.

He said that results from the project show that exceedance is quite high occasionally, an occurrence that would be more significant in a port with more cruise activity. The project shows why NOx has such a big impact on living areas, he added.

“We don't expect an exceedance in terms of the annual limit values, but we have high peaks depending on what ships is coming when. That is why Hamburg Port Authority needs to work with politicians on getting this down,” said Mr Siegert.

He noted that while the Port of Hamburg has recently announced it will extend shore power to all existing cruise terminals, 40 cruise ships call at the port every year and only one is able to connect to shore power. "HPA could demand all ships use this, but doesn't feel this is right decision right now," he stated, adding that NABU Hamburg plan to focus on emissions-reducing solutions for when ships are not at berth, and container ships as well as cruise vessels.

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