Fuel for Thought

Clean Burning Marine Fuels Making A Difference To Air Quality

Oct 02 2020

Author: Stephen B. Harrison on behalf of sbh4 GmbH

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For several years, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has stipulated low levels of sulphur emissions from shipping operating close to densely populated coastal areas, such as the English Channel and the coastal waters off the United States. As from the 1st of January 2020, lower sulphur emission levels in the IMO regulations became effective worldwide and the measures to monitor and reduce NOx emissions were also tightened. This will bring marine air pollution control more closely in line with refineries where continuous emissions monitoring systems (CEMS) have been used for decades to measure and mitigate NOx and SO2  emissions.

No more rotten air in Rotterdam

Some of the world’s most beautiful cities are blessed with an ocean setting or sit on the banks of a navigable river. Places such as Antwerp, Bangkok, Barcelona, Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Lisbon, Liverpool, London and Rotterdam might spring to mind. Through history, these cities have grown as centres of trade due to their maritime connections. Shipping in some of these locations, such as London, has predominantly moved out of the city centre to deeper water ports close such as the London Gateway at Thurrock and Tilbury. However, some other densely populated cities such as Rotterdam are still very much in the heart of the active port.

From a public health and air quality perspective, Rotterdam and other active ports are some of the biggest winners with the implementation of the IMO marine emissions standards. A major step forward for Rotterdam was taken in 2015 when the North Sea was designated an Emissions Control Area which capped sulphur level in marine fuels at 0.1%. With the advent of the wider geographic scope of the IMO 2020 marine emissions regulations, many other maritime cities will also benefit from air quality improvements.

To ensure that the regulations are being observed by shipping operators, the port of Rotterdam relocated an ambient air quality monitoring station in 2019 from the Hoek van Holland to the Maas entrance to the port. The new location at the top of the ‘Lage Licht’ on Splitsingsdam means that the air quality is being measured closer to the shipping lanes. The air sniffer uses highly sensitive gas analysers to measure sulphur dioxide in the air as ships steam in and out of the port. Monitoring such as this will ensure that shipping will take heed of the regulations and adapt to reduce their emissions – no more rotten air in Rotterdam.

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