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Green Light for Scrubbing Technology


The Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA) announced recently that the United States and Canada plan to introduce Emissions Control Areas (ECAs) in North America as an opportunity for shipping to widely incorporate abatement technologies in order to meet the impending laws. The decision taken on 31st March by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Environment Canada will also endorse an 85% reduction in particulate matter – alongside Sulphur Oxide (SOx) and Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) reduction - by 2015.

This is the world’s first substantial ruling for the reduction of particulate matter from large ocean-going vessels. While Emission Control Areas (ECAs) have been prevalent in Europe since 2006, neither of the European ECAs (The Baltic Sea and North Sea) have targeted the reduction of particulate matter, which is widely recognised as a major cause of cancer and other cardiovascular diseases in coastal areas.

The decision to include particulate matter is even more significant as shipowners will be required to do more than switch to cleaner marine diesel or gasoil fuel, which can only reduce particulate matter by a nominal amount, while smaller and more harmful 2.5 particles may even increase when using cleaner fuels.

Several companies have developed scrubbing technology for marine applications with test results from sea trials revealing particulate matter reduction of around 80%. EGCSA's members are confident that that figure can be substantially improved with further development.

The US–Canada proposal suggests meeting the new legislation will cost ship owners an additional $145 per tonne to move from High Sulphur Fuel Oil (HSFO) to 0.1% Sulphur marine fuel, however the differential reached was in excess of $500 per tonne in many ports in 2008.

While it is stipulated that 80% NOx must be removed by 2016 under the proposed legislation, the likelihood is that engine technology and additives can meet these requirements. Reducing emissions of SOx and particulate matter to meet the proposed US-Canadian standards can be achieved through the installation of scrubber technology for marine applications; rendering ships future proof to other ECAs currently under consideration. According to EGCSA, payback periods when compared against the alternate cost of distillate fuel are miniscule when viewed against the capital cost of scrubber equipment and installation.

Particulate matter emissions from ocean-going ships are responsible for about 60,000 deaths a year from heart and lung-related cancers, according to research published by James Corbett, University of Delaware in 2007. The report also stated that the number of premature deaths from ship emissions could rise by as much as 40 percent in the next four years because of increases in shipping activity, and it did not account for additional health impacts such as bronchitis and asthma related illnesses, estimated at 3.4 million instances in the US and Canada each year.


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