At Riviera Maritime Media’s MAP: Scrubbers: service experience, sulphur spreads, safety and science webinar, panellists from around the industry forecast a long-term future for exhaust gas cleaning systems and sought to highlight the technology’s credentials in improving air quality and human health in ports and coastal communities
Attendees heard from EGCSA director Don Gregory, Clean Shipping Alliance executive director Ian Adams, DFDS director for environment and sustainability Poul Woodall, Ecospray Technologies marine department director Alberto di Cecio, VDL AEC Maritime sales director Joost Wijdeveld and Pureteq chief executive Anders Skibdal.
In his opening remarks, Mr Gregory implored IMO to provide a clarity on marine pollution regulation adoption to enable the shipping industry to prepare for future legislative changes.
“IMO needs to provide a very clear roadmap with dates and requirements going forward, to avoid the cliff-edge change such as we saw on the 31 December 2019” when IMO’s Marpol Annex VI rules on 0.5% global sulphur cap in fuel came into force, he said.
Mr Gregory said he expects there to be a long-term market for exhaust gas cleaning technology. “We need to accept exhaust gas treatment is here and will eventually be fitted to all ships,” he said.
Mr Adams explained the chemistry behind the latest scrubbing systems. “Sulphur oxides are removed using either seawater or chemically treated freshwater,” he said. “The alkalinity of the water neutralises the SOx and this is discharged to sea in an open loop, or recirculated in a closed loop.”
While scrubbers are currently designed to remove sulphur from fuel, Mr Adams said he expects abatement technology will remove black soot, particulate matter (PM), NOx and CO2 in the future.
Mr Woodall provided an owner’s perspective from using abatement technology on more than 35 passenger ships. DFDS has installed scrubbers on over half of its fleet of roro and ropax ferries, “with five more in the pipeline”
Since 2009, DFDS has had 55,000 running hours with abatement technology with no issues, he said. The company operates mostly open-loop scrubbers and some hybrid units, which can switch between open-loop and closed-loop depending on requirements
“Around 95% of the time, our hybrids work on open loop,” said Mr Woodall. “We use closed-loop if local requirements demand this, and in a couple of ports where the water is too dirty, as we do not want this in our systems.”
The EGCS suppliers on the panel all agreed that remote service support was vital for efficient operations and ongoing compliance. Mr Wijdeveld outlined the important aspects of installation, certification, maintenance and servicing of VDL AEC Maritime systems.
“All our customers want to be compliant, which means being prepared for port state control inspections,” he said. “Owners need to be prepared for this with good maintenance of scrubber systems by qualified people and ensure it is calibrated by certified personnel."
VDL AEC Maritime has good co-operation with class for remote calibration and certification.
Mr di Cecio explained the importance of remote monitoring for predictive maintenance on Ecospray Technologies’ systems. He described how the company’s technology is optimised through design and engineering to improve performance and reduce the risk of issues after installation. “The more time we spend on troubleshooting before we start the actual project, the better the outcome,” said Mr di Cecio.
Ecospray is developing its next iteration of abatement technology which will be designed to remove more pollutants than just sulphur. “We are looking beyond compliance, to eliminate visible smoke from the stack,” he said.
Mr Skibdal also explained the importance of remote monitoring of EGCSs for predictive maintenance and the issues that can occur with sensor installation. “Sensor issues are getting less and less, and despite any issues we are measuring uptime and compliance to be somewhere in-between 98-99%,” he said.
“Scrubbers are reliable. We are looking at how we can improve further, to get the uptime and compliance rate even higher.” Mr Skibdal also stressed the importance of training seafarers on how to operate and maintain scrubbers effectively to reduce operating costs.
Demand for abatement technology on ships still relies on owners selecting these systems to meet IMO and regional air pollution regulations. This was driven in the past decade by the tightening regulations in sulphur emission control areas (SECA) in northern Europe and around North American coastlines.
There are expectations that a SECA will also be introduced in the Mediterranean. The webinar audience agreed, as 82% expect the entire Mediterranean to become a 0.10% SECA within the next 5 years.
Another driver is the spread between the price of HFO and very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO). When asked ‘At which price spread (HFO – VLSFO) would a scrubber investment be a valid business case for your organisation?’ the webinar audience voted 36% for US$150-US$200 per tonne of fuel, 28% for US$100-US$150, 12% for US$200 and higher, 6% for US$50-US$100, while 18% said it did not depend on price spread, but was about corporate policy.
In a further question, the audience was asked what they expect the spread between HFO and VLSFO will be once the world returns to normal, from the current coronavirus crisis. 42% said it would be around US$150 per tonne, 36% thought US$100 and 22% said US$200.
Panellists said that investment in scrubbing systems would be more likely to be recouped in the medium term as the fuel price spread expanded. Although the price spread between the two has shrunk of late amid a global pandemic and disputes between oil producing nations, many analysts expect the spread to be more than US$100/tonne from 2021 onwards.
In addition to oil prices, Covid-19 has impacted installation of EGCSs this year with 51% of the audience forecasting there to be a slow recovery in demand for scrubbers in H2 2020. Another 41% expect demand to be stalled due to Covid-19 and its subsequent impact on the global economy and just 8% expected demand to significantly improve.
In the long-term, poll results appeared to signal a feeling that additional demand is likely to come from abatement technology being introduced for other pollutants, perhaps driven by IMO legislation. When asked ‘Which of the following substances will be the subject for the next strengthening of IMO environmental/climate regulations?’ 34% of the audience forecast this to be CO2 and 21% particles in exhaust. Another 18% thought it would be washwater, 13% NOx and another 14% black carbon.
You can view the webinar, in full, in our webinar library.
And you can sign up to attend upcoming webinars on our events page.
Panellists, from left to right: Alberto di Cecio, Anders Skibdal, Ian Adams, Joost Wijdeveld, Poul Woodall, Don Gregory