Regulation of ships emissions leads to more efficient engines

Emissions from ocean-going ships are now being investigated and discussed in public, and there is a demand for stricter regulations. While land industries and other transport forms have been widely regulated during the last decades in order to limit the emission, the ocean transports have been ignored. This might be due to the fact that shipping takes place on the high seas away from populations who can readily see impacts of emissions has been part of the reason the industry’s fuel standards lagging behind other industries.

Extensive focus on environment issues is targeting the ocean traffic. Businesses, passengers, concerned ship owners and public opinion groups are demanding optimized and efficient diesel engines on our oceans worldwide.
While this situation could be seen as another blow to the transport sector it might prove otherwise. New instruments of monitoring and controlling the operation of the huge engines in modern ships can be both an welcome opportunity for ship-owners and at the same time meet public demands for a more environment-friendly ocean traffic. Optimizing the engine efficiency, operation and maintenance of large diesel-engines is a cost-effective process that has a range of advantages. Simply put, there are three main factors affecting the environmental impact:

• Fuel
• Engine combustion process
• Operation & Maintenance

Sailing ecosystems
Fred Danska, manager for the Cruise & Ferry Business Sales, is responsible for the cruise and ferry segment at Wärtsilä. His aim is to develop technologies that will allow future ships to be sailing ecosystems where all waste is recycled and all emissions are hundred percent clean. Fred Danska has for years been active in the international discussions among organization as a technical expert providing information and data.
He says:
“At Wärtsilä we are focused on a range of technologies with the ultimate goal to reduce the waste and emissions from ships completely. That goal may be years ahead. I believe that is 20-30 years in the future. In the meantime we are working on an operational level to ensure that our newly developed technologies can be implemented in existing ships.”
At the moment one of the main points of research in his section of Wärtsilä is to reduce NOx by adding water in the combustion process. This is not a new idea, but Wärtsiläs approach is to use existing waste water from the ships cloaks – the so called grey water.

Integration of technologies
“This process is very promising and allows us to kill two birds with one stone. First we reduce the amount of waste water that otherwise would be an environmental issue for the ships management. Secondly we reduce the amount of NOx,” Freda Danska says.

His impression is that environmental problems are of extreme importance to the operators these years and the area is becoming a major management issue for ship operators. A few years ago the discussions were only taken in smaller circles like the International Maritime Organizations, now states, the public, all kinds of pressure groups and international organizations are doing an effort to handle the problems.

“We now see that regulations are brought on from many parts. In Norway there has recently been accepted a tax on ships NOx emissions. When the same ship arrives in an EU harbor there are other regulations and levels comply with. For some operators these growing regulations means that a full time position for an environmental officer onboard is necessary to document and handle environmental data, regulations and communication with the appropriate bodies,” says Fred Danska.

He believes that we have only seen the beginning of this at the moment, and this is what drives the development of Wärtsiläs technologies.
“We are now targeting environmental issues from a new perspective. Traditionally the industry has been working on isolated problems, but now the tendency is to use the new technologies to handle the ships as one complete system of processes. This approach is in the long terms the most secure way to ensure that ship owners can live up to coming regulations,” Fred Danska believes.

A shift to more harmless fuels
At the moment the first ferries with gas engines from Wärtsilä are in operation. This technology is another example of a new way to reduce emissions since gas engines are very environment friendly. Fred Danska suggests that we in a few years will see huge cruisers with a gas engine for harbor use in order to reduce near land pollution and in the further future gas engines could even be used as primary propulsion for ocean going ships.

“If we look at realistic timelines for the work we are doing I would say that the completely non-polluting vessels will be sailing in 20 – 30 years. The first gas powered cruises could be taken in about 10 years and only 5 years we will see widely use of NOx in combination with waste water treatment.”

Fred Danska is assured that Wärtsilä is and will remain the frontrunner in this progression and in technical development that allows the technologies to be retrofitted to existing engines and onboard systems.
As the market leader and Service Company for both own and competitor’s engines after market reduction of NOx has a high priority at Wärtsilä. This is achieved in two ways – or the primary and secondary approach. The primary is the before mentioned process of adding water or steam to the combustion. This leads to a lower combustion temperature and the effect is a significant reduction in the emission of NOx.
The secondary approach is taking care of the emission itself. Here Wärtsilä has developed their Selective Catalytic Reduction (SCR) which today is capable of reducing NOx by up 85 – 95 percent.
Both the primary and secondary systems can be installed as complete packages as a part of normal engine overhauls.

Engine optimizing means business
The economical benefits of these actions are tri-fold. All over the world local authorities are implementing environmental taxes and harbor fees which are directly related to the specific ships emission levels. As the expenses of running a non-optimized engine increases, the value of taking action will be higher. Secondly new engine parts will prolong the overall lifetime of the machinery and most important: NOx reduction has proved to reduce the fuel consumption.

All in all this means that environmental measures taken during a scheduled engine overhaul will of multiple benefits and it will prepare the ship owners for both future competitiveness and international legislations in the area.
Aslak Suopanki is Wärtsiläs product manager at Environmental Solutions and he is expert in catalytic converters. He is setting and developing the criteria’s for the catalytic converters used in Wärtsiläs engines and he describes the situation today as a win-win-situation.
“The industry is being challenged with huge demands, but we can deliver the solutions and moreover we can see that our products on a long term will be cost free – and even a key factor in the industries future competition,” says Aslak Suopanki.

An open environment discussion
“One of our commitments is to constantly be aware of talks and monitor legislations from the bodies that control maritime transport. We do this to be able to offer advisory to our clients, to better understand future needs and trends – and also because we have an obligation to provide technological feedback to the environmental experts,” explains Aslak Suopanki who finds the international setting of experts, lawmaking organizations, industry and ship owners to be very constructive and positive these years.
The encouraging situation can also be felt in the research at Wärtsilä, says Aslak Suopanki. Firstly, the advanced Emissions Control Systems are very promising. The latest generation can now monitor engines far ashore via a browser based interface using satellite communication. This allows for optimized environment and engine efficiency policies among ship owners on a fleet-scale level.
The technology will once and for all eliminate the picture of ocean going vessels as “out of sight out of mind polluters”. Instead all data are collected, all instances can be taking care of with immediately and the system is an obvious advantage when it comes to documentation to external authorities such as harbors environment control organs etc.

EPA Environmental Protection Agency legislation is one example of how limits on particulates and NOx have changed over the years: between 1988 and 2010 the requirements for emission reduction will rise more than 95%.
Regulations are expected to continue to become stricter in the future. We are continuously looking for and developing new technologies to meet these requirements, to ensure environmentally sound operations in terms of low emissions, low environmental impact and sustainability.
The new technology is provided as standard on new engines and can often be retrofitted on older engines, so that they too can benefit from improvements not available when they first entered service.
The many primary and secondary measures available include mechanical modification of engine components, and the modification and tuning of engine parameters.