Liner Shipping

Low Sulfur Emissions - The bigger picture

In 2006 the ports of L.A. and Long Beach in conjunction with the California Air Resource Board (CARB) began working on a comprehensive plan to improve air quality in the region. The “San Pedro Bay Ports Clean Air Action Plan” or CAAP was the result of this collaboration. The following June CARB conducted a public workshop to discuss the development of regulations for ocean-going marine engines. Utilizing data from a 2005 study of Diesel Particulate Matter (DPM) they revealed that Ocean Going Vessels (OGV) contributed 18% to the overall DPM emissions in and around Southern California. The So Cal ports along with CARB concluded that a reduction in speed and the burning of low sulfur marine bunker would significantly reduce DPM and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) emissions in the region. California was the first state to enforce low sulfur requirements. In 2008 California set standards for speed reduction and marine fuel requirements for ocean vessels operating within 25 miles of its territorial waters. The age of slow steaming and low sulfur corridors had begun. Within a year the International Maritime Organization was also reviewing and setting standard for marine fuel and beginning to place territorial restrictions on areas within Europe, where use of low sulfur fuel was required. Currently Emission Control Areas extend along the entire East and West Coast of the United States and throughout the North Sea, Bay of Biscay, Mediterranean and Black Sea. The health benefits from reducing DPM emissions are obvious and ocean carriers want to be ecologically conscious, but there are additional costs. Bunkerindex quotes the average price of Low Sulfur Marine Gas Oil (LMGO) with 1.5% sulfur as $447 per metric ton while the price of IFO 380 with a sulfur content of 3.5% was only $244.33/MT. There are two steps in the process of switching from standard bunker to LMGO; marine lubricant must also be adjusted for the engine to run properly. Careful blending must be performed. So in all, the underlying cost of switching main engine bunker to low sulfur fuel adds a significant cost to the voyage.
How can carriers mitigate this additional expense? One way is with Blend on Board - Marine Fuel Oil Technology! Hamburg Germany will host the 2016 SMM Trade Fair this September covering everything from Cyber Ships and Maritime Security to advancements in marine lubrication. Maersk Fluid Technology a subsidiary of the A.P. Moller – Maersk Group and first time exhibitor at SMM, will unveil the latest release of their Blend on Board marine lubrication system. Blend on Board or (BoB) is a third generation technology which allows vessels to mix standard marine oil with an alkaline based cylinder oil concentrate to produce a high grade cylinder lubricant. Developed in 2008 by Maersk, the initial blending units were installed in over 200 Maersk vessels. After a million hours of onboard testing Maersk Technologies will commercially market the system under the name SEA-Mate and will debut the latest models at the September event. The SEA-Mate B 3000 blending unit is designed for use in larger vessels including container ships up to 18,000 TEU. The advantage of the lubricant produced is that it is no longer necessary to adjust cylinder oil feed rates regardless of the sulfur content of the marine fuel. Using the vessel’s own main engine oil as the base stock, Maersk claims the SEA-Mate system will cut fuel consumption by 1.5% at slow steaming and allow for a 40% reduction in total oil consumption. Waste oil disposal will be reduced by 80% as the system replenishes fresh system oil as needed and recycles the used oil. With its ability to operate under all mixtures of marine fuel, engine maintenance is reduced during periods where vessels must operate in Low Sulfur Corridors. Hamworthy Krystallon has been testing scrubbing systems! Various carriers including APL have been testing DPM scrubbers which operate in a loop design neutralizing acid gasses utilizing the carbonate / bicarbonate properties of sea water. Fitted into the ship’s stacks the unit filters particulate matter before fuel discharge is released into the air. Working in conjunction with CARB and the ports of LA and Long Beach APL claims that discharge scrubbers are as affective as low sulfur fuel alternatives. Is a new age in Marine Fuel on the Horizon? Liquid Natural Gas is being explored as an alternative to MGO and IFO bunker fuel. The greatest advantage is that LNG is clean burning and produces only water as its byproduct. To date the cost of retrofitting existing vessels for LNG or duel LNG traditional turbine engines has outweighed the advantages but the technology is a viable consideration for new builds. LNG technology is being deployed by German cruise operator Adia Cruises with the April inauguration of the AdiaPrima, the first of two Hyperion Class cruise ships to utilize LNG propulsion systems. While LNG may be the wave of the future there are still concerns regarding the stability of the gas and its potential as a fire hazard. Adia is awaiting approval from the City of Rotterdam as the cruise port is in the heart of the city. What is the best answer for reduction in harmful emissions? Certainly there are alternatives on the table. With regard to low sulfur fuels carriers have indicated they may pass along the additional cost of operation to the cargo owner. The same may be said for Sea Water Scrubbers and LNG may be a costly alternative to the current marine engine. It remains to be seen where technology will take the marine fuel industry. Will this technology add or remove additional cost to ocean freight rates?
Matt Guasco
Matt Guasco


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