Sulfur Regulations Spur Fuel-saving Technologies
The EU sulfur directive for marine fuels offers an opportunity for innovation in fuel-saving technologies
With many ship owners switching to marine gas oil (MGO) inside designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs) as of January 1, 2015, the cost of fuel could rise by up to 50%, so all measures to reduce fuel consumption are vital. Research and field testing has shown that the latest developments in engine lubrication and unique marine energy management systems can add more than a 15% improvement in fuel efficiency, proving that even the smallest modification at the right time can add up to big savings.
The pros and cons of the three options for the shipping industry to comply with the new Sulfur Directive – converting to marine gas oil, installing an exhaust cleaning system onboard, or retrofit to liquefied natural gas (LNG) usage – have been debated at large, but one consensus is that whichever method is chosen, there will be significant costs involved.
Thomas Franck, past Chairman of the Finnish Shipowners’ Association, former CEO of Bore Ltd. and Board Member of Nanol Technologies said, “It’s a given that the majority of vessels that will travel in the new Emission Control Areas will switch from heavy fuel oil (HFO) to marine gas oil, so identifying the most practical and cost effective way to operate within the new restrictions is key.”
With fuels costs effectively increasing by up to 50% overnight, there’s a need to extract every drop of efficiency. Franck is optimistic that there are a number of opportunities to significantly impact potential savings.
“By optimizing the performance of each vessel switching fuel, there’s an extra 15-20% of additional savings to be made,” Franck said. “To do this effectively we need to take into account all variables that will impact efficiency; from the propeller design to the texture of the paint on the hull, to the most effective engine management solution. Sometimes changing even the smallest factor can add up to big savings.”
This is where new technological advances can bring about significant results for little effort. Nanol Technologies, based in Finland, have developed a lubricant additive based on clever science and engineering. The additive contains copper particles which are perfectly dispersed in micelles and are completely soluble in oil. The micelles transport the active copper particles to the metal surface where the additive delivers important performance benefits. Nanol protects metal surfaces by creating a very thin protective layer of copper. It also reduces friction and energy losses. This reduces wear, extends the lifetime of components and the lubricants, and most importantly reduces fossil-fuel usage as well as harmful engine emissions. By adding Nanol’s specialist high performance lube additive, fuel consumption in vessels has been shown to be reduced by 3-5%. When Nanol’ s patented lubricant additive was tested in Ro-Ro and Dry Cargo vessels for 6 and 12 month trial periods, the vessels achieved a 5% reduction in fuel consumption in both instances.
Franck explained, "Adopting the Nanol additive does not require any expensive hardware changes or new equipment onboard the vessel. In fact it’s an easy process which is as simple as topping up the engine oil and less time consuming and less expensive compared to other options. The Nanol additive also immediately delivers positive results and cost savings. When fuel efficiency is in focus, this kind of adaptation can deliver a quick win when it comes to optimizing energy recovery.”
However the savings made by engine lubrication choice are just one contributing part of the many energy management choices that can affect fuel efficiency.
Henrik Dahl, CEO of Eniram, a provider of energy management technology for the maritime industry believes that solving fuel efficiency questions requires a comprehensive strategy: “The biggest potential for cost saving in shipping is in engine and fuel management. The second biggest costs are operational but to tackle overall efficiency you can’t just look at one aspect alone; taking a holistic approach to efficiency is best.”
By installing the Eniram Platform and sensors across both cruise and cargo vessels, ship owners and operators are able to track a range of parameters, such as speed, engine performance, draft, fouling, weather conditions and more. Armed with this data ship owners and operators are able to make adjustments to a vessels trim, speed and RPM in real time to achieve optimum efficiency, as well as significant savings on fuel consumption and operating costs.
Dahl said, “Our approach is data driven, through our existing clients we have analyzed data from 250 vessels. Our modeling shows that through accurate measurement and ongoing performance analysis, there is the potential to improve overall efficiency by 10%, and that is within current circumstances. It is possible to stretch this further with additional measures.”
While the maritime industry may feel that sulfur legislation puts additional pressure on an already overstretched industry, there are opportunities at hand.
Dahl takes a positive outlook on the situation: “The shipping industry needs to be proactive about the future. Legislation won’t end the cargo business because on a cost per unit basis, shipping is still the most energy efficient mean of transportation. But sometimes legislation needs to come first to encourage the industry to innovate.”
He continued, “If you go with the intention of the legislation, it can genuinely improve the way you operate. Our ambition is to work with our clients to help them stay ahead of the curve.”
Franck also sees the possibility for positive momentum driven by the new sulfur emissions legislation: “We have a five-year advantage in the European Emission Control Areas and a great opportunity to demonstrate our industry leadership in fuel efficiency management. A lot of the development work we are doing now in the Baltic region will benefit the shipping industry worldwide in years to come.”
The New EU Sulfur Directive coming into effect on January 1, 2015 affects European shipping operating in the Baltic Sea, the North Sea and in the English Channel, a designated ECA. All vessels passing though these areas will need to reduce the sulfur content in their fuel from 1.0% to 0.1%, bringing it closer to the land based EU limits of 0.001% in fuel for cars and lorries.
Companies with vessels that will pass through the ECAs have the following compliance options:
Converting existing vessels from HFO to MGO containing less sulfur and meeting the 0.1% limit, fitting an approved exhaust gas cleaning system or scrubber that reduces the high sulfur content emissions from HFO to the equivalent emissions level of fuel with a 0.1% sulfur content or switching to LNG.
Each solution has its own unique cost and risk implications. MGO is around 50% more expensive than HFO, so switching fuel will force up prices for shipping customers. Scrubbers are showing potential as a solution, but require a significant investment to cover installation and need ongoing monitoring and maintenance. LNG, while proving to be an efficient and cleaner fuel is still a new fuel solution which most believe is better suited to new builds. With the help of new technology provided by the likes of Nanol Technologies and Eniram, the new sulfur directive could be an opportunity to demonstrate leadership in fuel efficiency.
Franck concluded, “With the unique solutions available today, some measures already deliver savings without the need for big investments up front. The use of the Nanol additive significantly reduces fuel consumption by around 5%. It’s a simple solution that doesn’t require major investment in new engines, expensive emission control systems, complex changes in the fuel supply chain or major modifications to ship operating practices. The benefits from Nanol can be achieved by simply adding it to the existing lubricant. By any measure the solution by Nanol Technologies’ is ‘low hanging fruit’ where cost savings are easily achievable without much effort.”