What do shipowners need to know about 2015?

29 Feb 2012
Krystallon scrubber system for Solvang – could after-treatment be the only proven and viable answer?

Krystallon scrubber system for Solvang – could after-treatment be the only proven and viable answer?

With the 0.1% fuel sulphur cap entering into force in ECAs on 1 January 2015, owners need to be prepared. The new rules are now less than three years away, and there is still some confusion.

It’s not simply a case of bunkering with distillate fuel only rather than HFO, although that may be the solution for some vessels operating solely, or mostly, within ECAs. Systems such as fuel pumps will need to be adapted or changed completely to cope with the lower viscosity and lower lubricity of ultra-low-sulphur distillate fuel.

Retrofitting with the required equipment for running with low sulphur fuel can be extremely expensive. Various systems are affected, including fuel pumps and processing equipment, fuel consumption measurement and cylinder lubricating oil measurement. Austrian manufacturer Kral has issued a booklet and check list designed to assist shipowners. “Up to $270.000 per engine can be saved yearly if a simple mechanical cylinder lubricating oil meter is changed to a digital cylinder lubricating oil control system”, says the company.

For confidence and reliability at sea, Kral recommends magnetically coupled pumps, which eliminate mechanical seal damage from abrasive residues of HFO and thus reduce life cycle costs. Such pumps are also beneficial when operating at high temperatures or when environmental and safety considerations demand a leak-free seal. The magnetic couplings will automatically decouple in case of overload, and the use of rare earth magnets keep down the size.

Choice of correct cylinder oil is another important consideration. Although so-called universal oils are reaching the market, which are compatible with high-sulphur HFO and low sulphur fuels down to 1%, the lower 0.1% limit applicable to ECAs from 2015 will not be accommodated. Slow steaming can also provide challenges for cylinder lubricants, particularly at low feed rates.

Paul Harrold, technology manager for marine and energy lubricants at Castrol, says: “For prolonged slow steaming or super slow steaming we believe that oils of higher BN are required if optimised feed rates are to be maintained. Lower BN product may be used but OEMs advise that feed rates should be increased under slow steaming conditions.

“For intermittent ECA operation (using the current 1.0% sulphur fuel) a 70 BN product performs very well; for vessels that operate entirely or predominately in an ECA we believe the best option is 40 or 50 BN product.”

Of course, installing scrubbers will allow ship operators to continue to use high sulphur fuels both within and outside ECAs, even after 2015. This could mean that the use of HFO, far from disappearing from the marine market, would grow as scrubbers became more widespread. Harrold points out that: “Scrubbers will become financially attractive after 2014, with the attraction - based on a widening price differential - growing from then on.”

Harrold says that the best cylinder oil strategy will depend on: fuel sulphur levels, both within and outside ECAs); time spent in ECAs; oil feed rate strategy; slow steaming regimes; engine type and, configuration, and lubrication system design. After 2015 the fuel sulphur content range of 0.1%-3.5% will not be met by any single oil based on existing technologies, so owners may need to modify lube oil systems and tanks in order to prepare for a dual cylinder lube scenario.

Beyond 2015 the use of scrubber technology seems likely to look more attractive, and attention is again turning to exhaust gas cleaning as a solution to the 2015 dilemma. The major engine companies are geared up for this: MAN Diesel has links with Aalborg (now part of Alfa Laval) and Couple Systems, and Wärtsilä’s scrubber offering is growing following its acquisition of Hamworthy, bringing Krystallon into the fold.

A contract has recently been signed by Hamworthy Krystallon with Hyundai Heavy Industries for a scrubber system on an 84,000m3 LPG tanker being constructed for Solvang, said to be the first commercially-contracted full vessel scrubber system, comprising two scrubbers; one for the main engine and one combined scrubber for three auxiliary engines. The modular design of the scrubbers and washwater treatment plant, located in the funnel, is said to demonstrate the applicability of the seawater scrubber concept to compliance with 2015 ECA regulations.

Innovations will include varying the washwater amounts depending on the load and sulphur content of the fuel oil, as well as installing an additional capture system for particulates, expected to reduce PM emissions by more than 90%.

Hamworthy says that owners need to make quick decisions about the 2015 challenge, and to face up to the significant costs of using distillate fuel, and the technical challenges of switching from HFO to low sulphur distillate products. The company believes the LNG fuel option is promising but needs more development, so scrubbing could prove the only proven and viable solution.

Sigurd Jenssen, managing director, Hamworthy Krystallon, says: “There is real concern over the 2015 ECA regulations, and we are starting to see more owners and operators actively consider what solution they will employ to remain compliant, but time is running out. Ship owners and operators are increasingly aware of the impending supply chain issue facing the market, but many fail to consider that once a scrubber system is installed, it is important to develop operational experience prior to using it on a daily basis.”

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