This editorial will be published in the forthcoming Pan European Networks publication “Government 17”, www.paneuropeannetworks.com in February/March 2016 but is presented for reading advance on the InnSep.com homepage.
The importance of filtering the emissions from ship exhausts for a greener, renewable future in shipping
The source of pollution is the use of resources, mixing and combustion and releasing the byproducts back into Nature. In essence, we are taking fundamental chemicals and materials that Nature has refined for us through solar energy and combining them in new ways. This combination results in what we perceive as pollution. Chemicals and compounds distributed where they should not be. An ideal sustainable situation would be if we were able to separate the consumed materials back into their original form and re-use them; or return them to their original place in Nature, if technology no longer requires them. Since the Industrial Revolution, nonrenewable resources have been consumed at the highest rate possible, without regard to environmental impacts. With the new IMO regulations, a step has been taken in the right direction. Ships can no longer distribute NOx and SOx particles freely in residential areas. They must separate those harmful contaminants from the exhaust, and distribute the particles into the sea where it is better absorbed without damaging the environment.
Currently, 60% of global ports are covered by these regulations, and it is intended that they will apply to 100% of global ports in the new future. This puts pressure on the 60,000 ships that are using heavy fuel oil with up to 3% Sulphur (SOx) content. The main issue is the separation challenge. To separate SOx, NOx and other particles the exhaust must be showered with salt water, which reacts with and captures particles. These contaminated water droplets must then be captured and separated from the clean exhaust before the contents are discharged. The contaminated sea water must be collected and distributed in the open sea, far from harbours. The process can consume between 20-30 tonnes of water per hour. The sheer volume and weight required for the efficient separation of exhaust fumes comes with a steep price tag. So steep that for many, if not most shipowners, this simply will not be profitable.
Several consortiums and companies are developing solutions that are installed and tested in full scale. Unfortunately these solutions rely on conventional separation systems where gravity is the main force for collection of the contaminated water. This is the critical limiting factor for separation in ship exhausts and the critical problem that InnSep AS, in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, has decided to solve. The solution is simple: the use of centrifugal force to capture the separated byproducts. Unlike gravity, centrifugal force is not constant, we can increase it indefinitely. Higher collection force equals less volume required for the separator. In the laboratories, successful trials have been performed which resulted in the required efficiency for separation being achieved with an 80% reduction of separator footprint and volume. This technology was developed for the oil and gas industry for more efficient oil production and protection of compressors, pipes and sensitive equipment. The same principle was also developed for the restaurant industry for collecting cooking fats, oils and liquids in the air before they are ventilated. In the US alone an estimated 6,200 fires happen every year in restaurants due to ignition of deposited oils in the ventilation systems.
Now we are planning to develop this separation system for the global shipping industry. Funded by the the Research Council of Norway (www.rcn.no), a preliminary investigation has been performed outlining the challenges and possible solutions. The conclusion is twofold: This new principle can be used for all separation issues for ship exhaust gases. Secondly, the principle can be developed for retrofit on existing ships’ separator systems that are not performing optimally. In 2016 the first groundwork will be set for actual product development of this principle. Shipowners and providers of ship exhaust gas cleaning systems are invited to collaborate with InnSep and NTNU department of Energy and Process Engineering to take the final step towards efficient and sustainable ship exhaust separation.
Sondre K. Jacobsen
+47 9804 3205