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  June 15th, 2016 | Written by

Shipping Must Prepare for Stricter Black Carbon Emission Regulations

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  • Measuring technique for black carbon emissions is needed as the IMO seeks to control those emissions.
  • Initial results of research on the emissions will be helpful for developers of fuel and engine technologies.
  • Research in Finland will enable compliance to meet tightening international environmental regulations.

A new global challenge and a compliance monitoring market are emerging, due to tightening environmental regulations. VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Tampere University of Technology and the University of Turku have joined forces in an international project with the aim of making the measurement of black carbon emissions from cargo ships more reliable. The initial results show that engine loads and fuel types have a major impact on black carbon emissions from ships.

Last year, emission tests were performed at VTT’s engine laboratory, using a 1.6-megawatt diesel engine which corresponds to a typical auxiliary ship engine. Four marine fuels were tested, of which three contained varying amounts of sulfur with the fourth containing an oxygen-containing bio-component. The next step will be to validate the results in a real ship equipped with the latest technology, including a desulfurising exhaust scrubber. The engine measurement tests leveraged the results of another measurement technology research project: HyperGlobal, a multicopter equipped with sensors was used to measure sulfur dioxide levels in the vicinity of an exhaust pipe during the tests.

“A reliable method of measuring black carbon emissions from shipping is sorely needed, now that the the International Maritime Organization is evaluating the need to control such emissions, but no reliable measurement technique has been identified,” said research team leader Jukka Lehtomäki of VTT.

“The initial results have already revealed critical parameters in the measurement of black carbon,” said principal scientist Päivi Aakko-Saksa of VTT. “Such parameters can be used to achieve more reliable results. Engine loads and fuel types had a major impact on black carbon emissions from the engine we studied.”

The study will enable preparations to meet tightening international environmental regulations. More precise information on the emissions impact of different fuel types is helpful for developers of fuel and engine technology. The results can also be used to improve the accuracy of ship emission models and global emission inventories.

The critical examination and measurement of maritime black carbon emissions is made all the more urgent by the fact that black carbon is a major contributor to Arctic warming. New shipping routes are opening up due to the melting ice caps, which will prove detrimental to the climate as emissions from shipping extend to the highly vulnerable Arctic region. Even small deposits of black carbon—contained in soot which is the byproduct of incomplete combustion—accelerate melting and climate change, by reducing the reflectivity of snow and ice.

Pressure is mounting, because no common international environmental targets have been set for reducing black carbon emissions from shipping and no standardized measurement techniques have been developed.