Experts at Riviera Maritime Media’s Maritime Air Pollution ports roundtable discussion agreed scientific analysis and realistic expectations should be behind decisions by regulators and authorities for reducing emissions in ports
This roundtable, supported by PureteQ, VPS, Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA) and Clean Shipping Alliance, was held 30 June during Riviera’s Maritime Air Pollution Virtual Forum.
On the panel were ABB head of regulatory affairs Eero Lehtovaara, Wärtsilä director for exhaust treatment Sigurd Jenssen, EGCSA director Don Gregory and PureteQ chief executive Anders Skibdal.
During the event, Mr Jenssen explained how there needs to be a concerted, but uniform effort to lower emissions in ports. Regulations should be goal-based to allow technologies to be developed and tested to deliver emissions reductions.
“We have lots of opportunities to do better,” he said, “to do something good now and to develop innovations for the maximum bang for your buck” to reduce emissions as much as possible with optimal investment.
He said there needs to be scientific foundation to regulatory decisions at local, national, regional and global levels. “We need to use science as the basis for everything,” he said. This includes reducing particulate matter (PM), nitrogen and sulphur oxides (NOx/SOx) and cutting carbon emissions.
“We need proper documentation and evaluation of the consequences. Shipping is an international business, so there needs to be consistency,” said Mr Janssen. This needs to be across international borders and within nations so there “are not different standards in different ports” which would make it difficult for ship operators to develop and test technology to reduce emissions.
This viewpoint resonated with the audience. In a poll question asking how should ports decide on potential pollution-regulation rules, 85% of responders said it should be scientific evidence and 15% voted for a precautionary view.
Mr Lehtovaara spoke about the opportunities and challenges of generating future marine fuels. He emphasised shipping and ports are part of global logistics chains, although emissions in harbours can have localised impacts.
“Shipping is by far the most efficient way of transporting goods,” he said, “and global economies depend on shipping”.
Therefore, if new low-emissions marine fuels are to be considered, they will need to be widely available in ports.
Mr Lehtovaara said there should be consistency worldwide on how low-carbon marine fuels are developed and distributed. Currently, there is a “lack of standardisation” he said, adding “every solution for ports and ships is individual which is slowing down developments going forward – we need to address this.”
He then said shipping should consider “low-hanging fruits” for cutting emissions across global fleets, such as optimising operations. “We have tools available,” Mr Lehtovaara said, “for measuring in real time and making ships as energy efficient as possible”.
This is far better than driving shipowners through regulation to invest in renewing fleets with low-emissions newbuildings.
“We need to find a balance between the stick and the carrot,” said Mr Lehtovaara. “There should be rewards for doing things right and for bringing solutions forward.”
Delegates agreed there should be incentives for investment in ports and shipping. When asked which option would allow ports to best contribute to the decarbonisation of the marine industry, 81% said facilitating infrastructure development for alternative fuels and/or technologies and 19% voted for setting their own regulations and requirements, and thereby sparking innovation.
In another poll, attendees were asked what they think the dominant source of emissions will be? (except for greenhouse gases). To this, 61% thought it would be particulate matter, 23% said NOx, 10% thought SOx, and 6% voted for other.
PureteQ’s Mr Skibdal spoke about the real costs of cutting fossil fuels and developing alternative fuels. He called for more realistic expectations from regulators and scientific evaluation of the environmental footprint of fuel production, distribution and combustion.
“Well-to-wake is the only viable way to evaluate decarbonisation,” he said. “Industry needs to act, but we need to be realistic.”
There are calls for the shipping industry to switch from carbon-based to ammonia- and hydrogen-based fuels. But Mr Skibdal thinks these political views are unrealistic. “Politicians are competing to fix goals. It is easy to set targets, but harder to realise them,” he said. Most ammonia and hydrogen is produced from fossil fuels and there are huge energy losses in producing these fuels.
“Loss of energy in the process is a factor three or four,” said Mr Skibdal, “so only 25-30% of energy input is stored in the finished fuel.”
It is thought developing environmental e-fuels just moves emissions away from ports and shipping. “Technology is being developed but there is simply not enough green or clean energy,” said Mr Skibdal.
Producing e-fuels is thought to be prohibitively expensive unless there are high-level carbon taxes. Prices for ammonia on a tonne equivalent could be US$1,600-1,800. To make this worthwhile, there would need to be high carbon taxes on conventional fuels.
Delegates were asked what a realistic carbon tax would be to make e-fuels attractive by 2030. Of those who responded, 46% thought US$100-200, 15% said US$200-300, 35% voted for US$300-400 and 4% said more than US$400.
In another poll, attendees were also asked if e-fuels would be readily available for shipping to use in ports by 2030. 86% said no and just 14% thought yes.
An alternative approach in ports to cutting emissions is to offer shore power to ships while they are berthed. In a poll question, delegates were asked how many ports will provide shore power by 2030. 51% thought less than 25% of global ports, 35% said 26-50%, while 10% of those responding voted for 51-75% and just 4% thought 76-100% ports would offer shore power.
Mr Gregory tackled the issues around technologies for cutting sulphur emissions from heavy fuel oil. His organisation represents suppliers of exhaust gas abatement technology, known as scrubbers, for removing SOx from heavy fuel oil. There are open-loop systems where fluids from this process are discharged into the sea and closed-loop systems where liquids are recirculated.
Use of open-loop scrubbers is prohibited in several ports, but Mr Gregory said decision makers should use scientific analysis and testing before deciding on the use of open- or closed-loop scrubbers.
EGCSA has developed ecotoxicity testing and risk assessment of discharge water to provide information to decision makers. This assessment looks at whole effluent toxicity (WET), said Mr Gregory.
“It considers and measures the impact of the effluent on marine organisms,” he said. “It follows a highly precise and standardised procedure and removes consequential impacts such as acidity prior to testing.”
Testing uses a sequential assessment of different levels of marine organisms and then progresses to higher levels of organism if there are no observed effect concentrations (NOEC) on the lower-level organisms. NOEC is used to model predicted environmental concentrations (PEC) in different scenarios.
“The assessment concludes with the predicted no effect concentration (PNEC) under which unacceptable effects will most likely not occur,” explained Mr Gregory.
He said the assessments are required because ports are poorly informed in their decision to restrict or ban open-loop EGCS in port. If politicians and regulators were more realistic in their expectations from shipping, they would understand “future advanced EGCS are the only solution to address air pollution,” said Mr Gregory. Very low sulphur fuel oil creates other toxic emissions and diesel exhaust is classified as a toxic pollutant by the World Health Organisation.
Mr Gregory explained how ecotoxicity testing and risk assessment is conducted. “EGCS discharge water is taken from four vessels operating in northern Europe,” he said.
“Testing experts blend samples to a composite for chemical analysis and WET testing, which is carried out in accordance with set procedures commencing with algae growth inhibition and crustacean acute toxicity.”
A final sequence is WET testing of fish. “WET results are used to derive the NOEC and other factors and these are then used in the marine anti-foulant model to calculate the PEC.”
The final step is to match the PEC with dilution factors to assess the risk in defined ports and seaways. EGCSA plans to carry out more of these risk assessments in different ports in 2021 and 2022.
Experts at Riviera Maritime Media’s Maritime Air Pollution ports roundtable discussion panel were (left to right): ABB head of regulatory affairs Eero Lehtovaara, EGCSA director Don Gregory, PureteQ chief executive Anders Skibdal and Wärtsilä director for exhaust treatment Sigurd Jenssen