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Scrubber conundrum: Cure better than prevention?

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(seated l to r) Venkatesh Rao, Kaisa Marton, Richard Hall & Nikeel Idnani. (standing l to r) Bilal Al Habash, Rakesh Bangera, Dabira Chhabra, Jiju Vijayakumar & Sharad Kumar

Dubai – As shipping enters the final lap in the race towards meeting the IMO Sulphur cap by January 2020, the industry faces an expensive dilemma in making ships more environmentally sustainable. 112 delegates hotly debated the potential of Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems addressing the emissions regulations, at an IMarEST UAE branch seminar sponsored by Kamelia Cleantech, a Unique Group company.

Nikeel Idnani, Honorary Secretary IMarEST UAE branch, in his opening introduction, revealed that ship owners tread with caution in an industry that is no longer awash with money, yet must comply with what the regulators of the IMO have pledged to deliver against a firm timescale. Regulations demand ships to operate with a reduced Carbon footprint including lesser SOx emissions in the air. Accordingly, ships must either consume environmentally friendly energy sources or install Scrubbers. Nikeel argued that Scrubber bans by some countries appeared to be merely politically correct to follow by environmentalists, without necessarily having a scientific base to back up the decision. Nevertheless, he emphasized that this does not shred the economics of installing the systems, on a ship-specific basis.

Nikeel Idnani, Hon. Secretary IMarEST UAE branch

In a well-coordinated duet presentation, Kaisa Marton (Managing Director, Kamelia Cleantech) and Dr. Sharad Kumar (Group Director, Unique Group and COO of Kamelia Cleantech) outlined the alternative solutions to comply with the IMO 2020 legislation including OPEX, CAPEX and opportunity losses for these. They then highlighted the cleaning efficiency required in 2020 including the wash water discharge rules. While explaining the reaction chemistry between Exhaust Sulphur in contact with water, Kaisa admitted that the pH of the scrubbing effluent can be between 2.4 – 4.5 depending on the fuel Sulphur content, scrubbing efficiency, amount of water used and engine load. This could have corrosion implications and environmental challenges in selected locations with brackish waters such as the Baltic Sea. The use of closed loop scrubbing can be justified for these areas because the lack of natural alkalinity can be compensated by the addition of chemicals. Nonetheless, Seawater has excellent capacity to buffer changes in pH due to its alkalinity. Seawater salinity is a good indication of its alkalinity.

Kaisa Marton and Sharad Kumar during their duet presentation.

Sharad explained the pros & cons of U-type and Inline as well as the working principle of Open loop, Closed loop and Hybrid Scrubbers. Following best industry practices, he proposed a holistic and integrated approach to scrubber delivery including contracting a ship yard for the installation work, contracting an engineering company for the integration engineering, contracting a naval architect to check the designs and vessel integrity enabling seamless coordination of the four different parties resulting efficiently in a working solution.

Kaisa highlighted critical design factors to consider are Engine sizes and performance criteria, Funnel dimensions and existing space on the vessel, Ship systems, Ship geometry, Class and Flag. For the Project planning stage, it is important to factor Ship operation pattern and schedule, drydocking schedule of the ship, opportunity losses if the ship is taken out of operation, possibilities to carry out as much work as possible in service, available accommodation onboard for the riding gang, lifting arrangements onboard and at strategic ports. On a practical note, she shared Kamelia Cleantech’s experience with challenges faced during installation and operation and potential solutions. She commented on Kamelia’s capability to offer turn key based solutions and on voyage installation options available.

Kaisa Marton (MD, Kamelia Cleantech) receives IMarEST memento

Kaisa admitted that heavy fuel consuming ships, mostly on long ocean passages are the low hanging fruit from an economic perspective to install scrubbers. With a payback period ranging from 6 to 18 months depending on the ‘LSFO’ premium, amid the roaring noise of commercial realities facing the industry, this option is the more financially astute choice.

The impressive turnout at the meeting was testament to the importance attached to the topic as well as the presenters’ credentials and those whom they represent. With clinking glasses & a scrumptious dinner by the poolside at the upscale Ramada Jumeirah hotel, a ship owner woefully remarked – ‘charter rates are down and IMO 2020 is coming to town’.

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