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PGT: Why these persistent criticisms of scrubbers are just plain wrong

Pacific Green Technologies Group discusses three main objections towards use of scrubbers by shipowners.




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Scrubber technology firm Pacific Green Technologies (PGT) on Monday (22 July) published an article ’Why these persistent criticisms of scrubbers are just plain wrong’ supporting the use of scrubbers. Manifold Times has obtained permission to publish the article in its entirety:

IMO 2020 has placed enormous pressure on stakeholders throughout the maritime industry. It is understandable, then, that debates around the most effective way to comply with the IMO’s new emissions standards have been animated.

The big question on shipowners’ minds has been: what do we do to effectively and affordably meet the new 0.5% sulphur (sulfur) cap?

There are three options: switch to low sulphur fuel (LSFO), convert the propulsion system to run on liquefied natural gas (LNG), or install an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS), also known as a gas scrubber.

Scrubbers, particularly, have been the subject of passionate discussion. This is healthy.

However, the reasoning of the opponents of scrubbers has occasionally been skewed by thinking that is not grounded in science.

They seem to have three main objections: IMO delegates never intended for scrubbers to be adopted in the way that they have been; just one disruptive event could make them environmentally unacceptable; they only make economic sense based on a fuel price spread that may not last.

Let’s consider these each in turn.

IMO delegates never intended for scrubbers to be adopted in the way that they have been

The IMO’s rules on ship pollution were enshrined in the International Convention on the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or MARPOL 73/78.

Annex VI, which governs the emissions standards and means of compliance was introduced as part of the 1997 Protocol in September 1997.

Scrubbers were not originally included as part of Annex VI. Opponents of gas scrubbers maintain that this suggests that the IMO did not envisage scrubbers being part of any long-term solution. In their opinion, they were permitted by the IMO purely as a financially-accessible alternative that would allow owners to see out the life cycle of current vessels.

The IMO’s actions, however, don’t appear to support this notion. MARPOL Annex VI was officially adopted in 2005. Since then the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has convened more than 20 times.

Rather than changing its stance on scrubbers, the MEPC has consistently sought to refine it.

Amendments adopted in 2009 and 2015, for example, specifically address exhaust gas cleaning systems.

No mention of time limits or restrictions to retrofits. Of course, there will be representatives at the IMO who oppose scrubbers. Some may even feel “horror”. But that does not equal a groundswell of opposition.

It is dangerous to presume that any individual can speak for the intentions of the MEPC when they first met on this matter more than 20 years ago.

Instead, we should ask how the IMO has engaged with this topic over time. On the basis of that assessment, the support is clearly for scrubbers.

Just one disruptive event could make them environmentally unacceptable

The anti-scrubber brigade also believes that the use of scrubbers with high-sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) is antithetical to the spirit of MARPOL Annex VI, as well as socio-political trends.

They assert that this solution is runs contrary to everything that society is going to want from us and we are potentially being seen as trying to dodge the drift and trend of legislation.

They’re certainly correct in one way: the shipping industry is, and will increasingly be, expected to reduce its use of fuels that produce greenhouse gases and other harmful emissions. That is why it took the step to initiate IMO 2020.

However, the logical conclusion to that environmentally-friendly shift will be a world fleet of vessels powered by alternative energy, not ships running on LSFO.

That is a long way off. Until then, we should be using every means possible to help the shipping industry meet its cleaner air objectives. Yes, it may be easier – and politically fashionable – to suggest that society wants to see lower carbon fuels. But what society really needs is air it can breathe and air that is not toxic.

Scrubbers are critical to that outcome. As we have discussed here before, burning LSFO is far from a magic bullet. It comes with its own environmental hazards which the public are unlikely to find pleasant.

Opponents also point to the hypothetical actions of a “bad shipowner” somewhere in the world over the next 12 months becoming a catalyst for a major policy change against scrubbers. This shipowner would, apparently, be burning HSFO and cleaning exhaust fumes with a scrubber.

It is difficult to see what these “bad shipowner” actions may include. Like the maritime industry itself, IMO 2020 appears to have gone largely unnoticed by the general public. Geopolitically, it is barely a blip on the radar.

The only time that poor operations by shipowners seem to enter the public consciousness is in the instance of environmental disasters such as oil spills. Even in the event of such a tragedy, lighter fuels pose a host of toxic risks that are unique to their fuel type.

Protecting the world’s air and marine ecosystems is a complex problem that spans ecology, sociology, economics, politics and psychology. Solving it will require multiple solutions.

Continued use of HSFO with exhaust gas cleaning systems has repeatedly been confirmed as an important part of the IMO’s policymaking arsenal.

They only make economic sense based on a fuel price spread that may not last

Scrubber opponents’ final argument against scrubbers is an economic one.

They maintain that the value of installing a scrubber relies on a persistently high price spread between LSFO and HSFO, and that a spread of this kind will not last.

Recent analysis points to a significant stretch in the price gap between high-sulphur and low-sulphur fuels next year onwards. This is universally anticipated.

They may be right that the prices of LSFO and HSFO will restabilise in the years after IMO 2020 takes effect.

However, they are mistaken in suggesting that this eliminates the economic value of a scrubber.

Though scrubber installations can be expensive, fuel price differentials of the magnitude expected do not need to last all that long for owners to make their money back. In larger vessels, the payoff period is months, not years.

And, with so much uncertainty persisting about the refining industry’s ability to produce the required amount of compliant fuel in the next 12 months, these price spreads could last longer than anyone expects.

Opponents to scrubbers also point to the higher fuel consumption required to operate scrubbers. This is also true, but the increase in energy use is small.

However, the additional cost is negligible compared to the savings on offer for those who burn low-cost HSFO with a scrubber.

A reduced price spread between HSFO and LSFO is not the same as cost equality. Nobody is predicting that the HSFO and LSFO prices are going to meet, only that the gap between the two is going to close.

HSFO will continue to be cheaper than LSFO in the years to come. Those who use HSFO will continue to save money.

The fact that the marginal benefit may become smaller does not take away from the important fact that the benefit itself will endure.

Source: Pacific Green Technologies
Published: 30 July, 2019


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Mass Flowmeter

2050 Marine Energy Owner Adrian Tolson to discuss global MFM adoption in webinar

BIMCO’s 30-minute webinar, titled ‘Getting what you pay for – a novel concept in bunkering?’ will begin at 12:00 UTC on 12 June.





2050 Marine Energy Owner Adrian Tolson to discuss global MFM adoption in webinar

International shipping association BIMCO will be organising a 15+15 webinar featuring 2050 Marine Energy Owner Adrian Tolson on Wednesday (12 June).

Early in 2024, Tolson published a White Paper arguing for the global adoption of calibrated mass flow meters (MFMs) in the bunkering industry. 

He argued that this progress will bring much-needed transparency to bunkering by generating accurate, real-time data for all stakeholders along the marine fuel supply chain. 

Describing the problems for the industry caused by inaccurate quantity measurement he sets out a number of remedial actions.

The paper recognises the success of Singapore’s MFM based bunker licensing system and proposes this as a template for regulators in other regions across the world. 

It calls on all supply chain participants to actively support MFM-based deliveries, promote transparency and encourage digitalisation in the long-term interests of the bunker industry and to help further the decarbonisation goals of the shipping industry. 

“This 15+15 will explore these ideas and assess if there is a chance for real progress,” BIMCO said on its website.

The 30-minute webinar, titled Getting what you pay for – a novel concept in bunkering? begins at 12:00 UTC.

The 15+15 weekly webinars are a 30-minute webinar which includes a 15-minute presentation followed by a 15-minute Q&A.

Note: Those who are interested in attending the online event, can register here


Photo credit: BIMCO
Published: 11 June, 2024

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Alternative Fuels

ExxonMobil advanced 40BN cylinder oil gets WinGD dual fuel engine validation

ExxonMobil announced its advanced 40BN cylinder oil, Mobilgard™ 540 AC, has been validated by WinGD for use in its dual fuel engines with bunker fuels including methanol and now LNG.





RESIZED ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil on Friday (7 June) said its advanced 40BN cylinder oil, Mobilgard™ 540 AC, has been validated by WinGD for use in its dual fuel marine engines with conventional fuels, including methanol, and now LNG. 

The high performance cylinder oil, which also has an approval from MAN ES for use in its two-stroke engines, was developed for use in slow-speed, two-stroke marine engines operating on fuels with up to 0.50% sulphur content, LNG, ethane, methanol and LPG.

Mobilgard 540 AC has demonstrated an excellent ability to keep the engine clean while running in gas mode at optimised low feed rates. The oil is also suitable for methanol operation and with other liquid fuels up to 1.5% sulphur levels. 

This comes in addition to the existing MAN ES Category II approval, positioning the oil as a supreme oil in the two stroke marine engine space.

“Vessel operators need reliable, high performance solutions, now more than ever,” explained Yannis Chatzakis, Global Technology Program Manager at ExxonMobil. 

“This double validation underscores ExxonMobil’s commitment to delivering both. As with all our cylinder oils, Mobilgard 540 AC has been developed using our balanced formulation approach. This helps ensure outstanding protection at optimum feed rates, supporting the peace of mind our customers need.”

Used in conjunction with a next generation scrape-down oil analysis service, such as Mobil℠ Cylinder Condition Monitoring, the cylinder oil can help:

  • Deliver exceptional cleanliness with low-sulphur fuel due to high level of detergenc
  • Combat deposits and scuffing-related engine wear associated with low-sulphur fuels
  • Ensure performance even in severe operating conditions as a result of excellent thermal and oxidative stability

The firm added Mobilgard 540 AC has demonstrated the ability to deliver these benefits while optimising cylinder oil feed-rates and effectively managing acid neutralisation in a range of engines and fuel applications. 

The cylinder oil has already been granted Category II status by MAN ES for use in its two stroke marine diesel engines; the addition of the dual fuel validation from WinGD positions the oil as one of the highest performing in the market.

“ExxonMobil continues to work with stakeholders, including engine OEMs, from across the marine industry as we believe that this offers the best results for our customers and the wider maritime sector,” said Chatzakis.

“The next few years are likely to throw up new challenges as we collectively pursue a lower emissions future. Our commitment to innovation will help achieve that goal.”

Note: Mobilgard 540 AC is available in all major ports. Full details can be found in its Ports & Services Guide -


Photo credit: ExxonMobil
Published: 10 June, 2024

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DNV explores present state of onboard carbon capture in new white paper

DNV’s study examines OCC as a decarbonization solution for shipping by looking at its technical, economic, operational, and regulatory challenges, as well as its integration into CCUS value chain.





DNV explores present state of onboard carbon capture in new white paper

Onboard carbon capture (OCC) is attracting interest within the shipping industry, providing shipowners with the opportunity to continue operating on conventional fuels while reducing emissions, said classification society DNV on Wednesday (5 June).

However, according to DNV’s latest whitepaper The potential of onboard carbon capture in shipping, its success depends on collaboration between regulators, policy makers, industry stakeholders, class, and suppliers.  

With decarbonization targets rapidly approaching, demand for cost-efficient solutions for emission reduction is increasing. DNV’s latest whitepaper explored OCC as a decarbonization solution for shipping by looking at its technical, economic, operational, and regulatory challenges, as well as its integration into the carbon capture, utilization, and storage (CCUS) value chain.

CCUS is the process of capturing CO2 and recycling it for future use or permanently storing it in deep underground geological formations. The maritime industry is exploring its application onboard ships, which will require an onboard system to capture, process and store the CO2, and a network of offloading which is integrated into wider CCUS infrastructure.

Chara Georgopoulou, Head of Maritime R&D and Advisory Greece, said: “OCC is expected to be part of a range of future options which will help shipping achieve its decarbonization goals. However, further collaboration and testing is required to verify its performance.”

“The commercial attractiveness of OCC will depend on the terms under which regulations can credit the removal of carbon emissions, and how smoothly it can be integrated into the growing CCUS value chain.” 

For OCC to be relevant for wider application it must be economically viable and competitive with other decarbonization alternatives. If successfully deployed, OCC can become a key way for shipowners to comply with decarbonization regulations, while also helping to reduce the demand for alternative fuels.

The EU ETS is the only regulatory framework currently providing commercial incentives for OCC. To encourage shipowners to adopt the technology, future environmental and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations must also provide credit for captured CO2.

“If we are to achieve IMO decarbonization targets, we must leave no stone unturned in continuing to investigate OCC and other potential technologies that can accelerate shipping’s decarbonization journey,” Georgopoulou said.

Note: The paper is available for free download here.


Photo credit: DNV
Published: 10 June, 2024

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