Sea scrubbing solution for North American ECA

Approval of scrubbing technology opens the way for emissions control area in North America.

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Updated on 20 Jun 2008 12:49 GMT

A newly-approved emissions control system, designed to fit onboard ocean-going ships, could be used to significantly reduce particulate matter(PM) and sulphur emissions along North American coastlines.

Approval of the system, known as seawater scrubbing, by United Nations' body the International Maritime Organization has opened the way for the first North American ECA – an Emissions Control Area for ships potentially stretching up to 200 miles offshore - to incorporate the technology.

The success of Krystallon's 'seawater scrubbing system' in removing harmful emissions allows shipping lines a cost-effective means of 'future proofing' vessels from tougher international and federal emissions restrictions introduced throughout a vessel's lifetime.

Significantly, while both scrubbing and distillates – or ultra low sulfur marine fuel – reduce harmful sulfur emissions by over 97%, only scrubbing technology' is able to significantly reduce particulate matter (PM) emissions, according to Krystallon. Moreover, the company claims distillates release over 60% more CO2 than the same engine with a scrubber burning heavy fuel oil.

Health experts say the particulates also worsen respiratory illnesses, cardiopulmonary disorders and lung cancers, particularly among people who live near heavy ship traffic. Clean air agencies throughout North America have sought ways to reduce PM emissions from marine engines for many years. Recent studies estimate that more than 8,000 premature deaths in North America are as a result of particulates from ships.

If applied to the North American west coast shipping fleet, the scrubbing system - which can be retro-fitted within ten days - is estimated to be capable of removing particulates in the entire Los Angeles region (South Coast Air Basin) by more than 15%, according to Air Resources Board figures.

Jim Kross, Consultant for Krystallon in Seattle, explained: “It is well-documented that PM from ocean going vessels is the last significant source of particulates to come under regulation in the North America. Although moving to ultra low sulfur fuels will greatly reduces sulfur levels, PM levels only drop 10% compared to our 90% removal rating.

“The decision by the United Nations to approve scrubbing technology effectively means that ocean-going ships currently burning high sulfur 'marine' or 'bunker' fuel can continue to purchase the fuel they have been using for decades while enabling shipping to make a huge contribution to improving air quality in our coastal regions,” Kross added.

The United States is anticipated to ratify the United Nations' decision later this year, with plans for ECA's as early as 2010.