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Special Report: Solution for desulphurisation before IMO deadline

by Arabian Oil & Gas Staff on Aug 2, 2017

Under the project, a hybrid version of the multi-stream scrubber has been installed on board ocean tanker M/T Aurelia and can be operated in an open or a closed loop. The captain selects the mode, according to the waters in which the ship is travelling.
Under the project, a hybrid version of the multi-stream scrubber has been installed on board ocean tanker M/T Aurelia and can be operated in an open or a closed loop. The captain selects the mode, according to the waters in which the ship is travelling.

SOx scrubbers help the shipping industry to conform to environmental rules from International Maritime Organization, binding on 1 January 2020.

Bilfinger’s maritime desulphurisation system provides ship owners with a solution at just the right point in time. In autumn 2016, International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted a resolution to broaden the rules for maritime environmental safety.

Prior to this, the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) had conducted a study to determine the worldwide availability of low sulphur fuels and desulphurisation technologies, also known as scrubbers. This study identified a large number of suitable uses for scrubbers.

In addition, a decision was made concerning the date on which the international sulphur limit of 0.5 percent is to apply. This threshold is now to become binding on 1 January 2020 when the amended Annex VI to the MARPOL Convention takes effect.

The North and Baltic Seas as well as North American coastal waters have already been identified as sulphur emission control areas (SECA), for which a maximum of 0.1 percent has been applied since 2015.

Full steam ahead for maritime flue gas desulphurisation

After only around three months of operation, the reference project on board the ocean tanker M/T Aurelia was awarded the International Air Pollution Prevention Certificate by certification company DNV GK on behalf for the German flag. Operated by shipping company Carl Büttner GmbH & Co. KG from Bremen, the ship was fitted out with a new flue gas desulphurisation system supplied by Babcock Noell, a subsidiary of Bilfinger SE.

This technology uses an absorption process to remove the sulphurous flue gases emitted by the ship. In this way, the ocean tanker meets the latest environmental standards.

“More and more companies are interested in environmental technologies and this now also includes shipping companies. We have decades of experience in industrial plants, which we are now putting to good use in ocean shipping. Bilfinger stands for top efficiency, reliability and environmental technologies made in Germany,” says Tom Blades, CEO, Bilfinger.

Commitment to clean shipping

“The IMO’s decision is forcing us ship owners to either use expensive low-sulphur fuel or to install scrubbers on board to filter out the sulphur,” explains Lars Bremer, managing director, Carl Büttner Shipmanagement GmbH, the subsidiary responsible for ship operations.

In summer 2016, the shipping company launched a pilot project to assess the technological potential of efficient desulphurisation on the high seas in a practical trial. To this end, ocean tanker M/T Aurelia was fitted out with a desulphurisation system. Sources of sulphur such as the main engine, the auxiliary diesel and the boiler were connected to the system and operated under varying conditions.

The scrubber supplied by Babcock Noell is a hybrid system that operates in different modes, i.e., in either an open or a closed loop. With the system placed in operation without any major incidents, the technology went on to prove itself in the three-month test phase.

Andreas Breeger, head, maritime flue gas cleaning systems, environmental technologies, Babcock Noell, explains: “Acceptance testing by DNV GL was completed the first time and free of any reservations. As a result, this project milestone was reached within a very short space of time. For this reason, we are confident of being able to drive forward the technology changeover towards low-sulphur ocean shipping.”

In particular, the enormous economic efficiency of scrubber systems looks set to generate strong market demand. Payback times are between one and two-and-a-half years.

Sustainability gaining importance

With its numerous services aimed at enhancing energy and process efficiency, Bilfinger is helping to modify industrial plants and components in the light of the growing sustainability requirements. These include various engineering activities and environmental technologies such as flue gas desulphurisation for ships, insulation services and the maintenance, conversion, expansion and modernisation of industrial plants.

Customers’ growing interest in energy and process efficiency is resulting in an increasingly important area of business for Bilfinger. Operators of industrial plants are under strong public pressure and have therefore set themselves ambitious sustainability goals.


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