IMO 2020: No Fuel Choice Will Avoid Inevitable Requirement to Install Scrubbers, Says EGCSA

by Ship & Bunker News Team
Monday November 20, 2017

When the "IMO 2020" global 0.50% sulfur cap for marine fuel comes into force on January 1, 2020, vessel operators will need to install and use an exhaust gas cleaning system - more commonly known as a scrubber - if they want to continue to burn the same high sulfur fuel oil bunkers they burn today.

While the majority of vessels are currently projected to switch to burning a compliant distillate fuel instead, the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA) now says that whatever bunker fuel vessel operators choose to use in the future, there will be no avoiding the eventual need for a scrubber.

The comments came at the first international conference on marine emissions technology that took place on November 6, 2017 in Singapore.

At the event, Professor Zimmermann of the University of Rostock and Helmholtz Zentrum München shared findings from complex human tissue studies conducted over many years, the conclusion of which was said to be the totally unexpected assessment results for the combustion of "clean" distillate fuels.

Specifically, by looking at the use of 0.10% maximum sulfur fuels within Emission Control Areas (ECAs), Zimmermann said his team found that the fuel prescription approach to regulation has resulted in more toxic emissions for certain populations, such as in ports and regions bordering busy shipping lanes.

Professor Di Natale of the University of Naples, meanwhile, said that while some fuels help to reduce emissions, the very nature of the combustion process means the use of advanced scrubber technologies "remain a necessity if shipping is to play its part in air protection and minimising the impact of emissions on human health."

Commenting on the event as a whole, Don Gregory, Director of EGCSA and conference chair said: "The underlying message was clear: multiple fuel choices will be a headache for ship-owners, but no fuel choice will avoid the inevitable requirement to install exhaust gas treatment systems.

"EGCSA has always encouraged a goal-based and sustainable approach to the protection of human health and the environment. In fact, EGCSA was formed not merely to represent 'scrubber companies' but to take a proactive approach to sustainably and effectively reducing harmful emissions from prime movers on ships. It is a shame that politics and dogma continue to hamper real progress in realising these ambitions."