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SCRUBBER CONUNDRUM: CURE BETTER THAN PREVENTION?

Monday, February 25, 2019 

Nikeel Idnani, Honorary Secretary IMarEST UAE branch, in an introduction to a branch seminar in Dubai, said that ship owners tread with caution in an industry that is no longer awash with money, yet must comply with what the regulators of the IMO have pledged to deliver against a firm timescale.

The seminar was attended by 112 delegates who debated the potential of Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems for addressing emissions regulations, aand was  sponsored by Kamelia Cleantech, a Unique Group company.  Idnani said that as shipping enters the final lap in the race towards meeting the IMO Sulphur cap by January 2020, the industry faces an expensive dilemma in making ships more environmentally sustainable.

He added that regulations demand ships operate with a reduced Carbon footprint as well as emitting less SOx to the air. Accordingly, ships must either consume more environmentally friendly fuels or install Scrubbers. "Scrubber bans by some countries appear to be merely politically correct to satisfy environmentalists, without necessarily having a scientific base to back up the decision," Idnani (pictured) said.

Kaisa Marton, MD and Kamelia Cleantech, and Dr. Sharad Kumar, Group Director, Unique Group and COO Kamelia Cleantech, outlined the alternative solutions to comply with the IMO 2020 legislation including OPEX, CAPEX and opportunity losses for these. They highlighted the cleaning efficiency required in 2020 including the wash water discharge rules. While explaining the reaction chemistry of Exhaust Sulphur in contact with water, Marton admitted that the pH of the scrubbing effluent can be between 2.4 - 4.5 depending on the fuel sulphur content, scrubbing efficiency, amount of water used and engine load. This could have corrosion implications and environmental challenges in selected locations with brackish waters such as the Baltic Sea.

The use of closed loop scrubbing can be justified for these areas because the lack of natural alkalinity can be compensated by the addition of chemicals. Nonetheless, he said that seawater has excellent capacity to buffer changes in pH due to its alkalinity. Seawater salinity is a good indication of its alkalinity.

Kumar explained the pros and cons of U-type and Inline scrubbers and the working principle of Open loop, Closed loop and Hybrid Scrubbers. He proposed a holistic approach to scrubber delivery, encompassing choice of installation yard, use of integration specialists, and a naval architect to check the design and vessel integrity.

Marton considered that payback for scrubbers with ships on long ocean passages burning HFO could range between 6 months and 18 months, depending on LSFO premium.

A shipowner who attended the event was quoted as saying: "Charter rates are down and IMO 2020 is coming to town’.

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