Fort Myers, Fla. (August 22, 2019) – January 1st, 2020 marks the beginning of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulation on sulfur emissions for the global maritime fleet.
Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) or High Sulfur Fuel Oil has provided tankers and cargo ships with cheap and widely available fuel for decades.
This new regulation calls for vessels to adopt higher cost fuels with significantly less sulfur contents than the current 3.5%.
Although the regulation specifically calls for the use of low sulfur fuels, the rule was written to regulate emissions, not sulfur contents.
This has created a loophole that allows vessels to keep burning the preferable high sulfur fuel oil so long as they adopt the appropriate measures to suppress sulfur emissions.
This has brought exhaust scrubbers technology into the global conversation because it can do just that.
Once installed on a ship, exhaust scrubbers work to significantly reduce sulfur oxides and particulate matter in emissions.
This would allow vessels to keep or even benefit from the low and predictably dropping price of high sulfur fuel oil.
Unfortunately, demand for this technology far outweighs the world’s supply capacity leaving many ships with two options, adopt more expensive compliant fuels (ultra low sulfur fuel oil, marine gas oil, or diesel fuel) or pay for costly vessel conversions to Liquid Natural Gas (LNG).
This harsh reality has prompted AXI International to propose a new solution to better deal with the IMO’s 2020 regulation.
The Concerns of Exhuast Scrubbers
Before we get into the new solution proposal, we must better understand why an alternative to exhaust scrubbers or Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS) would be desirable.
Aside from the low availability and long lead times, scrubber technology is still considered to be in its infancy and can cost ship owners millions for installation and integration.
EGCS systems are also becoming a much-debated topic among environmentalists due to how its byproducts are being disposed of.
Many of the new exhaust scrubbers being installed are open loop systems that spray sea water over the exhaust fumes to wash out the sulfur oxides and particulate matter.
Once drained from the emissions chamber, the sea water, now full of emissions contents, is released into the open ocean.
Advocates for exhaust scrubber systems have argued its effects on the ocean are negligible while many others remain skeptical of such claims.
“Surely, scrubbers will reduce emissions to air, but it appears as it will just move the emissions to the sea instead.” – Ivar Myklebust, CEO of Höegh Autoliners
This has led to speculation on whether exhaust scrubbers could be the target of future, more stringent regulations.
If this were the case, thousands of multi-million-dollar investments to keep HFO could be rendered useless overnight.
Singapore, China and Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates have already started a ban on open loop scrubber systems.
There are fears that localized areas with higher shipping density may be vulnerable to higher discharge volumes leading to negative ecological impacts.
It is uncertain if other ports will follow suit with similar concerns.
The Benefits of Keeping High Sulfur Fuel Oil
New Very Low Sulfur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) is expected to be 25% more expensive than the current high sulfur fuel oil.
This rise in fuel costs will result in increased freight rates which can be expected to be passed down to end consumers.
With 90% of all global trade happening on our oceans, Goldman Sachs estimates this change could impact consumer wallets by nearly $240 billion in 2020.
With initial capital expenditures, an investment in exhaust scrubber systems could help ships owners dodge the hikes in fuel costs and even save them money should the price of high sulfur fuel oil drop like many predict.
Keeping heavy fuel oil could make certain vessels more competitive with lower freight rates and faster transportation times, another metric expected to be negatively impacted as ships attempt to lower fuel consumption.
AXI International’s new alternative could allow entities to remain competitive in 2020 without the huge risk in capital expense needed for exhaust gas cleaning systems.
An Exhaust Scrubber Alternative
AXI International suggests the better solution to emissions control and cost reduction lies in the pre-combustion stage of the engine as opposed to the reactive approach of exhaust scrubbers during post-combustion.
By modifying the rate determining step of the fuel during the combustion process, AXI International has demonstrated amazing results in emission reductions across the board along with increases in fuel efficiency.
This is due to the fuel being burnt more completely in the combustion chamber as opposed to creating excess byproducts we have come to know as harmful emissions.
A proprietary combustion catalyst lies at the heart of this solution and AXI International has developed a robust system to deliver it directly to the vessel’s fuel supply with intelligent auto dosing protocols.
Talks have already began surrounding the systems implementation for smaller applications but AXI is actively looking for partners in further testing on larger maritime vessels.
With a more complete combustion of the fuel, users can expect increases in efficiency and power on top of emission reductions.
“These benefits are all tied together. If you are burning more of the fuel you can expect to extract more energy from the fuel and receive considerable increases in power and efficiency. Harmful emissions are also a direct result of unburnt hydrocarbons (fuel). If more of the fuel is being burnt, you can quickly deduce how it would correlate to reductions in harmful emissions.”
To go further, AXI International’s AFC Fuel Additives are already being used to restore much of the lost lubricity associated with ultra-low sulfur diesel.
AXI believes this additive injection system paired with its fuel additive could work to alleviate some of the coming ailments and offset some of the increased costs associated with the adoption of new distillate marine fuels.
Chemical fuel treatments or fuel additives are a proven technology that have been successfully utilized in many industries on a whole range of hydrocarbon-based fuels.
” …the application of residual fuel additives in the marine and power generation sectors to improve combustion or provide other benefits is not yet widespread… The combustion phase is one of the areas where marine residual fuel oil additives can be used to advantage” – Chevron
In automating the additive dosing process, AXI International hopes this will become a more feasible solution for marine vessels to gain a competitive edge in a IMO 2020 environment.