In October, the International Marine Organisation (IMO) made the landmark announcement that, by January 1st 2020, ships must comply with low sulphur fuel oil requirements.
The implementation date has been made in response to growing environmental and human health concerns. It is intended that the new regulations will benefit the world’s oceans and the wider environment, especially coastal communities and people living in port cities.
Under the IMO’s new global limits, ships will be expected to use fuel oil on board with a sulphur content of no more than 0.50% m/m, against the current limit of 3.50%, which has been in effect since 1 January 2012.
The effects of sulphur
Statistics relating to the sulphur output from vessels don’t make for pretty reading. The heavy fuel oil currently used in shipping belts out 2700 times more sulphur than road fuel, where strict limits have been in place for a long time.
- Sulphur in fuel causes emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) and also contributes to the formation of secondary particulate matter which is harmful to both humans and the environment
- Shipping air pollution is estimated to cause around 50,000 premature deaths per year in Europe. Symptoms of exposure include coughing, wheezing, phlegm and asthma attacks, and it has been linked to cardiovascular disease
- It causes acid rain (when sulphur dioxide combines with water and air it forms sulphuric acid, which is the main component of acid rain. Acid rain can cause deforestation and devastating environmental effects)
What must ship operators do to comply?
- Ships can meet the new requirements by using low-sulphur compliant fuel oil. An increasing number of operators are also using gas as a fuel, because once it is ignited, it results in negligible sulphur oxide emissions. This has been recognised in the IMO’s development of the International Code for Ships using Gases and other Low Flashpoint Fuels (the IGF Code), adopted in 2015. Another alternative fuel is methanol which is being used on some short sea services.
- Ships can also meet the SO2 emission requirements by using approved equivalent methods, such as exhaust gas cleaning systems or “scrubbers”, which “clean” the emissions before they are released into the atmosphere. In this case, the equivalent arrangement must be approved by the ship’s Administration (the flag State).
At Eazychem, we have been working closely with the global shipping industry in response to environmental concerns over issues such as sulphur emissions to create an effective exhaust gas cleaning system.
To assist, we have developed the eazy scrubber caustic test kit, which allows crews to simply and quickly check, sample and analyse the % of caustic soda during bunkering, in order to validate that the % of solution supplied matches the supply specification. If it doesn’t, then it is possible to either adjust the system dosing accordingly or reject the delivery.
The clock is ticking towards the January 1st 2020 deadline…