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Foreship expects scrubber demand to increase from ‘better than expected’ current ROI

29 Mar 2021

Independent naval architect and marine engineering specialist Foreship on Friday (26 March) said with around 60 exhaust gas scrubber references it suggests that better than expected return on investments from open loop systems will translate into further orders once coronavirus-related uncertainties pass.

Foreship’s scrubber selection recommendations to ensure ship emissions meet IMO 2020 0.1% fuel sulphur content equivalence are fully independent and based on cost, complexity and operating profile.

With services ranging from feasibility studies to concept design, basic design, detail design and supplier evaluation, Foreship has extensive experience of open loop, closed loop and hybrid systems, a variety of class rules and yard installations in Europe, North America and Asia.

Olli Somerkallio, Chief Operating Officer, Foreship, notes the majority of the hybrid systems the company has worked on have been destined for cruise ships or ROPAX vessels, where vessels spend more time operating coastally and in-port.

However, lower cost open loop scrubbers have represented a larger part of the company’s workload, with owners switching to lower sulphur fuels where port restrictions on washwater demand it.

“It’s understandable that some local authorities take a negative view on acidity in washwater and the presence of heavy metals, no matter how low the concentrations, especially where water exchange rates are not high,” said Somerkallio.

“Hybrid scrubbers that switch to closed loop operations in port certainly provide one option but the other remains to install an open loop system and manage a switchover to low sulphur fuels in port.”

Somerkallio added the combination of Covid-19 and cut-throat oil pricing has eaten into the differential between high sulphur and low sulphur content fuel oils, leading demand for scrubbers to stall. The circumstances also had consequences for future scrubber technology demand.

The total cost of open loop scrubbers including equipment and installation is significantly lower than is the case for hybrid systems, and owners that have committed to this technology are reporting returns on investments far more rapid than anticipated, said Foreship.

“When oil prices recover, we expect this type of scrubber to attract significant new investment,” said Somerkallio.

“For cargo ship owners, the fact that the closed loop needs alkali in significant volumes will always make it an expensive option. Although lower fuel cost in port can shift the economics in favour of the hybrid option for some ships, for cargo ships the cost of the closed loop operation kills the economics of the scrubber.” 

Foreship acknowledges that criticisms are levelled at open loop scrubbers based on sulphurous washwater but emphasises that only specific ports and coastal waters block their use.

While the efficiency indexes driving IMO  regulations favour liquified natural gas (LNG) over high sulphur fuel oil (HFO), December’s Marine Environment Protection Committee nonetheless pointedly replaced the phrase ‘liquid effluents’ with ‘discharge water’ in its latest scrubber guidelines evaluation.

Somerkallio adds that new research from Tampere University, the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the VTT Technical Research Centre show that using exhaust gas cleaning systems in combination with HFO result in lower particulate emissions than marine gas oil.

“Whatever the critics might say, if there was an outright ban on the open loop, I believe there would only be a very small number of scrubber installations altogether each year. I don’t believe that would be an environmentally desirable outcome.”

Related: Foreship reports increased scrubber enquiry post IMO 2020

Photo credit: Foreship
Published: 29 March, 2021

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