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Marine Environment & Fuels

NOx NOx Who’s There? 2016 Tier III Limits!

January 1, 2016 marked the enforcement of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) nitrogen oxides (NOx) Tier III standards. These standards stipulate that ships built on or after 1 January 2016 and operating within NOx Emission Control Areas (ECAs) must reduce NOx emissions in correspondence with MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 13, which reflects an 80% reduction compared to Tier I levels.

Although NOx Tier III regulation is only applicable to newbuilds and those ships with a power output of more than 130kW irrespective of tonnage, all ship owners and operators looking into expanding their fleets will now need to consider not only sulphur oxides (SOx) emissions but also the more stringent Tier III NOx emission requirements.

In this week’s spotlight, Fathom delves into the main solutions for meeting Tier III limits – selective catalytic reduction (SCR), exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) and liquefied natural gas (LNG), and explores some key considerations for successful NOx control.

1. Ship Space And Design

Although there is a range of techniques available to reduce NOx emissions or indeed prevent their formation at all, some of the methods require considerable quantities of space and therefore cause further design constraints than others. For instance, SCR, a post combustion technique that selectively reduces NOx emissions by converting them to harmless nitrogen and water vapour, requires careful consideration of not just the key components, but also the storage of the reducing agent. Urea, or ammonia in their different forms must be carefully stored as temperature, changes in pressure, and the pure quantity required can prove challenging without proper consideration. Furthermore, LNG fuel, which produces no NOx emissions, weighs more and takes up around 1.8 times more space than marine diesel oil (MDO). Internal engine modifications, such as EGR will have different space requirements depending on its configuration.

2. Infrastructure Availability

Different solutions have different stages of supporting infrastructure. For example, one of the major drawbacks of using LNG as an alternative fuel is the availability of infrastructure. At the current time refuelling stations are sparse and hence has been attributed as a reason for lack of uptake. However, in light of the infrastructural developments throughout 2015, there is good reason to suggest that using LNG as an alternative fuel should be more accessible in the near future. Alternatively, acquiring the reducing agent urea for use in an SCR system may be a much easier alternative as it is widely produced for agricultural production and is therefore available at many ports around the world.

3. Capital and Operational Costs

An SCR, for example, reportedly costs around US $500,000 for the system and installation alone. Total costs largely depend on fuel price differentials, such as between LNG and heavy fuel oil (HFO) and the cost of the fuel compared to initial installation in order to work out a fair return on investment. At the same time it is also worth considering the incentives and schemes which are on offer. For instance, the Norwegian NOx fund offers financial support to those implementing NOx abatement measures while the Green Award allows ship owners to reap financial and non-financial benefits on port dues when demonstrating environmental performance above and beyond what is regulated.

It is therefore vital to take into consideration not just the CAPEX expenditure but also the OPEX costs through fuel prices and availability, the time in which the ship/ships will be operating in NOx ECAs, and the various financial gains that may be had for installing a NOx reducing technology.

4. Operational efficiency and trade-offs

When thinking about the operation of any ship component, its ability to deliver highest operational efficiency with the lowest cost is clearly a deciding factor.  This also means taking into account how it reacts with other components on the ship. For instance, how compatible is an SCR system and a SOx scrubber? Although they will both be integrated into a newbuild at the beginning stage, the location of the SCR is vital because of the backpressure generated by the scrubber which can render the SCR ineffective. In order to be effective, the SCR must therefore be fitted before the scrubber (upstream). Similarly, an SCR catalyst maybe be affected by the quality of marine fuel, thereby influencing the lifetime the effectiveness of the catalyst and thus future operating costs.

Additionally, an EGR is capable of removing 80% of NOx emissions but can also increase particulate matter (PM) emissions and carbon monoxide (CO), indicating the trade-offs that may occur when reducing NOx.

5. Proof of Regulatory Compliance

Ensuring compliance is one challenge but proving it is another.  The NOx Technical Code stipulates the required testing, survey and certification of the engine to ensure compliance with Regulation 13 and must be adhered to. For whichever method of NOx control is chosen, newbuild engine checks must prove Tier III compliance in order to attain certification at all stages and obtain a verified Technical File, stating onboard NOx verification procedures for the device installed.  It is also expected that Port State authorities will now have a role in verifying and ensuring compliant operations, demonstrating with more stringent regulations comes more stringent checks and highlighting the importance of 2016 and beyond NOx control preparedness.

To obtain further information on NOx control and 2016 regulation, please see Fathom’s recently published ‘The Ship Operator’s Guide To NOx Reduction’, available on our website store here.

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fathom-news is an online news and analysis service dedicated to providing insight and knowledge on the transformation of shipping.

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