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Pacific Green: Why gas scrubbers continue to be the future of marine emissions control

A study by independent Norwegian research group SINTEF confirmed burning HSFO with a scrubber has a lower carbon footprint than using LSFO.

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Scrubber technology firm Pacific Green Technologies (PGT) on Monday (22 June) published an article supporting the relevance of scrubbers in reducing emissions from the shipping industry while clarifying popular misconceptions of burning HSFO: 

The coronavirus pandemic has been a huge global tragedy. It’s also smashed the economies of many nations and laid waste to whole sectors of industry. It’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime occurrences that you wish hadn't happened in your time on the planet.

One of the sectors that has been most notably hit hard is the oil sector. As the pandemic took hold, as all forms of transport were paralysed by the crisis, global oil demand collapsed by more than 16 million barrels a day.

Simultaneously, a production war between Saudi Arabia and Russia saw oil supplies surge - it was a catastrophic cocktail that sent oil market prices into a tailspin. For brief periods in April, some oil futures were trading in the negative.

Dated Brent, the benchmark used to price more than two-thirds of the world’s oil, is now back to over $42/b (as of June 21) after hitting a 21-year low in April. Some market participants expect it to nudge towards $45/b in the short-term and higher still as the year progresses.

This will be good news for those shipowners who have installed marine gas scrubbers, as a rise in oil prices will likely be reflected in the spread between high sulphur fuel oil and low sulphur fuel oil, a spread which has been, at its height, over $300 but is now hovering around the $50-$55 mark.

As the spread widens, so scrubbers become more attractive

Most shipowners believe that the spread will increase again, after all, LSFO requires blending of distillates, which, in comparison to HSFO, are expensive and will become more so as the oil price rises. LSFO fuel is a much higher quality fuel, creating a premium in price.

And, as the spread widens, so scrubbers become more attractive, not just as a way to meet the new sulphur emission standards established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in January, but as a way to save substantial amounts of money.

It’s not as if there is any chance that HSFO will simply disappear.

Even if newly-built refineries don’t produce HSFO in the medium-to-short-term, the vast majority of refineries are not being upgraded to exploit the extra levels of refining and consequently abandon HSFO. The investment required is vast and many refineries cannot afford the investment, especially now.

Many of those who had planned to upgrade their refineries have postponed or delayed those upgrades since the start of the crisis, so HSFO will be relatively plentiful in supply for the foreseeable future.

It’s not just about the money

On price alone then, over the coming years, a scrubber will likely be seen as a wise investment.

But it’s not just about money. One thread of debate since the virus emptied the skies and seas, thereby reducing emissions, has been that we need to take more rapid action on climate heating.

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) new emissions regulations, which took effect on 1 January 2020, and were aimed at reducing the sulphur content of ships' fuel oil from 3.50% m/m. to 0.50% m/m, already sought to reposition the maritime industry as a partner in positive environmental and social change.

In meeting the requirements of IMO 2020, shipowners had - and still have - three primary alternatives available: use <0.5% low-sulphur fuel oil (LSFO), install a marine scrubber, which allows continued use of high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO), or switch fuel type entirely to liquefied natural gas.

The industry debate about which is the best compliance solution has become increasingly polarised. And, as is often the case in such situations, many of the arguments have become absurdly oversimplified and reductionist.

Fitting a scrubber, so the story goes, is just for shipowners who want to save a buck. Switching to LSFO is for those owners who care about supporting the IMO’s plans for a healthier environment.

This is an alarmingly unsophisticated view.

A study published last year by independent Norwegian research organisation SINTEF confirmed that burning high-sulphur fuel oil with a scrubber has a lower carbon footprint than using LSFO.

To understand LSFO’s true carbon footprint, you have to assess the fuel’s full lifecycle.

Measuring the ecological cost of LSFO cannot be limited to the narrow view of its use at sea.

According to SINTEF’s chief scientist Dr Elizabeth Lindstad, the energy required in the global production of LSFO produces far more greenhouse gas (GHG) than in the production of HSFO.

The difference is also compounded by scale.

With so many ships using LSFO as their IMO 2020 compliance solution, the supply of LSFO has had to climb drastically to meet demand.

With more distillate fuel production will come more GHG production.

In her report, Dr Lindstad concludes that, measured from well to wake, using HSFO with an exhaust gas scrubber is the most environmentally beneficial way of complying with IMO 2020.

Research submitted earlier this year to the IMO by Germany and Finland also confirmed that the overall effect of burning LSFO is environmentally negative.

LSFO is a dirtier fuel than HSFO used with a scrubber

Very low sulphur fuel oil was specifically developed recently to create a fuel that would comply with the IMO’s 2020 sulphur requirements. It has not had widespread use for a prolonged period of time and it is not fully understood.

The Finnish/German research describes the results from controlled burnings of various marine fuels - their research shows that blended LSFO showed a significant increase in black carbon emissions.

Second only to CO2 in terms of the maritime industry’s contribution to climate change, black carbon is a dangerous greenhouse gas.

It is responsible for 7% to 21% of shipping’s overall GHG equivalent impact. LSFO, therefore, is a dirtier fuel than HSFO used with a scrubber.

For many, such findings are counterintuitive and can therefore be dismissed. But this is a nuanced debate, and the science favours scrubbers.

The operational and engineering risks of switching to LSFO are significant

And, even then, it’s not just about price and environmental concerns.

Worryingly little attention seems to have been paid to the operational and engineering risks of switching to LSFO.

Many shipowners have been unprepared for the technical difficulties of suddenly running a ship on a different fuel.

Low and high sulphur fuels are not interchangeable. Fuel management on vessels has to ensure that high sulphur fuel is not mixed with low sulphur fuel - you can't just switch between the two.

More significantly, LSFO fuels can vary a lot between batches.

Each batch can have different burning characteristics and LSFO can very quickly damage an engine if not handled correctly.

LSFO fuels are blended products - storing these fuels on board requires much more preparation and skill. Transitioning from one batch of oil to the next becomes a guessing game in which the booby prize is an inoperative ship.

HSFO and LSFO also differ significantly in terms of viscosity, with residual fuel and MGO, for example, exhibiting a density difference of approximately 8%.

HSFO-capable engine equipment generally requires a relatively high fuel viscosity, 10-20 centistokes (cSt). Low sulphur distillate fuels have a much lower viscosity, usually within 2-11 cSt.

If viscosity is too low, the moving components of the injection equipment will lack sufficient lubrication. The resulting damage could include fuel pump seizures and increased leakage in fuel pumps, engine-mounted pumps, and fuel handling pumps.

Viscosity and lubricity are closely connected. Sulphur is used to increase the lubricity of fuel; low sulphur fuels could provide ship’s engines with insufficient lubrication for components such as the pump plunger.

However, the opposite problem is also a risk - compensating with over-lubrication is a regular and damaging occurrence.

These operational worries were borne out in February this year, when Muhammad Usman, product manager at construction engineering firm Lloyd’s Register, told delegates at a marine conference that port inspections have found a multitude of problems with vessels caused by the switch to LSFO.

“Issues found have been increased wear of engine cylinder components; unstable combustion; increased sludge issue at purifiers and fuel solidifying in the tank, particularly at cold climates,” said Usman.

And just last week at a marine webinar hosted by price reporting agency S&P Global Platts, it was suggested that Europe was emerging as a global hotspot for quality issues with the new very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) blends.

Scrubbers offer shipowners full fuel flexibility and eliminate concerns about fuel compatibility

"The biggest problems we have with fuel quality are in the ARA area," one delegate said during the webinar.

"We see different types of problems, such as total sediment potential, even a little bit of sulphur out of spec, a variety of hiccups. I'm a little bit surprised that the market doesn't seem to be able to get this right yet."

In contrast, scrubbers offer shipowners full fuel flexibility and eliminate concerns of new blended fuel qualities and compatibility issues.

And, rather than causing problems to the inner workings of ships’ engines, scrubbers can be fitted to newbuilds or retrofitted to almost any engine.

Scrubbers are also a hedge against the further tightening of emissions regulations. For instance, not only is PGMT’s ENVI-Marine™ system smaller, more efficient, cheaper to install and costs around 20% less to run than the competitions’ product but it delivers marine scrubbing efficiency equivalent to an astonishing 0.0047% sulphur fuel.

And each iteration is aimed to make the device more scalable and easier to build, while constantly improving the scrubbing efficiency - this is technology that will meet emissions targets for many years to come.

Scrubbers make more economic, environmental and operational sense than any other solution to the IMO 2020 conundrum. Even in these difficult times, marine gas scrubbers are still the future.


Photo credit: EGCSA

Published: 25 June, 2020

 

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Decarbonisation

SMW 2024: Maritime industry on track to adopt mid-term decarbonisation measures, says IMO chief

Safety, inclusion and transparency will be key areas for Mr Arsenio Dominguez’s tenure as Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization.

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SMW 2024: Maritime industry on track to adopt mid-term decarbonisation measures, says IMO chief

The article ‘Maritime industry on track to adopt mid-term decarbonisation measures: IMO chief’ was first published on Issue 1 of the Singapore Maritime Week 2024 Show Dallies; it has been reproduced in its entirety on Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times with permission from The Nutgraf and the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore:

Toh Wen Li
[email protected]

The maritime industry is “on track” to roll out decarbonisation measures by 2025 as set out by the International Maritime Organization, said its new chief Arsenio Dominguez.

“We are on track to adopt mid-term measures by late 2025 to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, to reach net zero targets,” said Mr Dominguez, who took over as IMO Secretary-General in January.

In 2023, the IMO released a revised GHG strategy to reach net-zero emissions from shipping by or around 2050 – far more ambitious than its 2018 initial GHG strategy, which aimed only to cut emissions by at least 50 per cent compared to 2008.

“These will help us progress towards achieving netzero GHG emissions by or around 2050, with indicative checkpoints to reach by 2030 (cut GHG emissions by at least 20 per cent, striving for 30 per cent), and 2040 (cut GHG emissions by at least 70 per cent, striving for 80 per cent).”

Mr Dominguez, who will be speaking on the opening day of the 18th edition of SMW, also emphasised the need to keep seafarers safe against the backdrop of heightened geopolitical tensions. He said the attacks on ships in the Red Sea have far-reaching economic implications.

“Prolonged disruptions in container shipping could lead to delayed deliveries, high costs, and inflation. Energy security and food security could potentially be affected due to increased prices,” he said.

“These attacks pose serious threats to global maritime security, as well as the security and maritime trade for the coastal states in the region,” he said, calling out the Red Sea attacks as “categorically unacceptable”. But he remains confident that the industry will continue to stay resilient. “I trust that shipping organisations and Member States alike will come together in the relevant IMO fora to seek collaboration and look for solutions together.”

Mr Dominguez also pledged to create a more inclusive IMO, one that is more gender-balanced in an industry that has long been dominated by men.

“I have appointed a gender balanced senior management team and initiated a policy of refraining from participating in panels or events unless gender representation is respected. I encourage the maritime community to follow this example,” he said.

He added that the IMO will also strive to fulfil its mandate as the world’s regulator for international shipping; support IMO’s 176 Member States, particularly Small Island Developing States and Least Developed Countries; raise public awareness of IMO’s impact; and adopt a “people-centred approach”.

“My vision is for IMO to flourish as a transparent, inclusive, and diverse institution,” he said. 

Singapore can ‘shine a light on the way forward’

Key maritime hubs like Singapore can play a key role as the industry pushes ahead in its quest to decarbonise, said International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Secretary-General, Mr Arsenio Dominguez.

“Singapore is (in) a great position to participate in trials and pilots to show what works, including routebased actions – and share results of any trials back to IMO,” he said.

The green transition poses a slew of fresh considerations for the maritime sector. A major bunkering hub such as Singapore will need to look at making changes to infrastructure to deliver new fuels.

Other considerations for the industry include safety, pricing, lifecycle emissions, supply chain constraints, barriers to adoption and more, added Mr Dominguez. Seafarers, too, will need to be trained in how to operate new technology safely.

“We need ‘early movers’ in the industry as well as forward-looking policy makers to take the necessary risks and secure the right investments that will stimulate long-term solutions for the sector,” he said.

Singapore Maritime Week is a chance for key stakeholders to “have the conversations and discussions that can formulate ideas and bring new solutions”, Mr Dominguez said.

Now, more than ever, collaboration will be crucial. “The experience of critical maritime hubs like Singapore can help shine a light on the way forward for many issues. Here the IMO can play a role in providing opportunities for Singapore and other maritime hubs to share their expertise with all Member States. Shipping is global – no single country can go it alone.” 

Singapore Maritime Week 2024 was organised by Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore from 15 to 19 April. 

 

Photo credit: International Maritime Organization
Article credit: The Nutgraf/ Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore
Published: 23 April, 2024

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Winding up

Singapore: Liquidator issues notice of dividend for Paliy Marine Engineering

Liquidator of Paliy Marine Engineering, which is undergoing voluntary liquidation, issued a notice on the first and final dividend.

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A notice of dividend for Paliy Marine Engineering Pte Ltd, which is undergoing voluntary liquidation, was published on the Government Gazette on Friday (19 April).

The following is the details of the notice:

Name of Company : Paliy Marine Engineering Pte. Ltd. (In Creditors’ Voluntary Liquidation) 

Unique Entity No. / Registration No. : 199608223D 

Address of Former Registered Office : 149 Rochor Road #03-28 Singapore 188426 

Amount per centum : 100 per centum of all admitted preferential claims 12.21 per centum of all admitted ordinary claims 

First and Final or otherwise : First and Final 

Name of Liquidator : Abuthahir Abdul Gafoor 

Address of Liquidator : c/o AAG Corporate Advisory Pte. Ltd. 144 Robinson Road #14-02 Robinson Square Singapore 068908

According to SGP Business website, the firm’s principal activity is building and repairing of ships, tankers and other ocean-going vessels. 

Related: Singapore: Paliy Marine Engineering liquidator issues intended dividend notice

 

Photo credit: steve pb from Pixabay
Published: 23 April 2024

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MoU

IBIA and BIMCO to collaborate on bunker fuel and maritime challenges

Both will collaborate in areas including research initiatives, studies, and projects relevant to bunker or marine energy industry and maritime sector as well as training and education.

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IBIA and BIMCO to collaborate on bunker fuel and maritime challenges

The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) and BIMCO on Monday (22 April) said they have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to collaborate on some of the monumental challenges and opportunities within the areas of bunker, marine energy and maritime sectors and help facilitate shipping’s decarbonisation efforts.

The parties have agreed to leverage their respective expertise and resources to develop innovative solutions and initiatives to facilitate the transition towards cleaner fuels and efficient and sustainable shipping practices. The partnership MOU will focus on addressing the following key areas:

Research and Development: Collaborate on research initiatives, studies, and projects relevant to the bunker/marine energy industry and maritime sector.

Information Sharing: Share relevant information, publications, and data that may be beneficial to the members of both organisations.

Training and Education: Explore opportunities for joint training programs, seminars, and educational initiatives to enhance the knowledge and skills of professionals in the maritime and bunker/marine energy industry.

Influence: Work together on efforts to address common issues and challenges faced by the industry.

Alexander Prokopakis, Executive Director of IBIA, said: “This partnership between IBIA and BIMCO marks an important step towards addressing the pressing challenge of decarbonisation in the shipping industry. The collaboration underscores the industry’s collective commitment to navigating towards a greener future for maritime operations.”

David Loosley, BIMCO Secretary General & CEO, said: “As we work towards the checkpoints and targets of the updated GHG strategy of the IMO, working across all sectors that influence and support decarbonisation of shipping will be key. Our ships will be relying on many different fuel solutions in the process and working toward the safety and availability of those is crucial.” 

IBIA and BIMCO are committed to driving progress towards a more sustainable and environmentally responsible future for the global shipping industry.

 

Photo credit: IBIA and BIMCO
Published: 23 April 2024

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