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CE Delft study reports scrubbers could have a lower carbon footprint than burning LSFO

15 Sep 2020

Netherlands-based independent environmental problem research and consultancy organisation CE Delft on Monday (14 September) said it has published a new study commissioned by three major EGCS suppliers –  ‘Comparison of CO2 emissions of MARPOL Annex VI compliance options in 2020’.

The study reports that the CO2-emissions associated using an Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (EGCS, or scrubbers) vary between 1.5% and 3% for a number of representative ships. 

In many cases, the emissions caused by producing low-sulphur fuels for these ships are higher, depending on the quality of the low-sulphur fuel, the refinery and the crude oil slate, it said. 

It added that as of January 1st, 2020, the sulphur content of fuel oils used outside Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) is 0.50% m/m. Inside ECAs, the limit has been 0.10% m/m since 2015. In practice, there are two options to comply with the MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 14:

  1. using an EGCS in combination with fuel oils with a sulphur content that is higher than 0.50% or 0.10%; and
  2. using fuel oil with a sulphur content of 0.50% (VLSFO), respectively 0.10% or less (ULSFO).

Both options result in an increase of well-to-wake CO2 emissions:

  1. an EGCS requires energy which is generated by engines running on fuel oil and thus generates CO2. In addition there are emissions associated with manufacturing scrubbers and emissions from the seawater;
  2. desulphurisation in a refinery requires hydrogen which is generally produced from methane, emitting CO2 in the process, as well as energy.

CE Delft states that this report quantifies and compares the CO2 footprint of both options. 

It explained that while desulphurisation inevitably leads to an improvement of the fuel quality in terms of aromatics content and viscosity, the increase of emissions associated with desulphurisation in a refinery are higher than 1% – and in many cases multiple times higher, depending on the quality improvement of the fuel, the refinery layout and the crude used.

“This study provides a comprehensive overview of the climate impacts of different options to reduce sulphur emissions,” said Jasper Faber, Manager Mobility & Transport CE Delft. 

“It shows that in many cases, the carbon footprint of using a scrubber is lower than low-sulphur fuels.” 

A copy of the study is available for download here

Photo credit: CE Delft
Published: 15 September, 2020

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