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NGO: Scrubbers ‘ far from a perfect solution’

14 Feb 2018

The Clean Arctic Alliance, a consortium of 17 non-profit environmental organisations working across 14 countries campaigning for a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) bunker fuel in the Arctic, says shipowners should look past scrubbers as a solution to the upcoming 2020 sulphur regulations.

"Scrubbers, however, are far from a perfect solution," says Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance.

"From 2020, in order to reduce sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from shipping, IMO regulations dictate that fuel must have a maximum of 0.5% sulphur content. Ship operators will need to either switch to low sulphur fuel, or use a scrubber to remove the SOx from the exhaust gas.

"While switching to low-sulphur fuel tackles the problem of air emissions at source, scrubbers are an end-of-pipe technology, which produces a residue (sludge and wash-water) from the cleaning process that needs to be disposed of – and there is concern that scrubber residue and wash-water could end up being dumped in the ocean."

According to Prior, Maersk has identified commercial, technical and operational challenges as its reasons for not investing in scrubbers to meet the new sulphur cap in 2020.

A switch from HFO to distillate fuel will cause  minimal or no technical intervention on ships for ship operators.

Enforcement of the sulphur regulation will also be simpler when using low-sulphur fuel, since ships would have no need to carry fuels with a higher sulphur content than 0.5%.

"Ahead of a meeting of IMO member governments in early February which will consider measures to implement the sulphur cap on fuel oil in 2020, the Clean Arctic Alliance is urging Arctic shipping operators against the installation of scrubbers," she states.

"The best protection for the Arctic will be delivered by a move by shipping industry away from heavy fuel oils and towards low sulphur diesel or distillate fuels. Not only will this remove the HFO spill risk, it will reduce emissions of both SOx and black carbon."

Photo credit: Clean Arctic Alliance
Published: 14 February, 2018

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