IMO Tier III decision making waves in the marine industry

As awareness of the shipping industry's contribution to exhaust emissions grows, the international marine transportation sector is facing tighter limits.

The United Nations International Marine Organization’s regulations governing marine emissions, called IMO Tier III, will get tougher starting Jan. 1, 2016.

Vessels with keel laying – in modern times, when a ship’s components are formally joined together – after this date must be outfitted with engines that cut their nitrogen oxide emissions by nearly 80 percent when traveling in NOx Emission Control Areas (ECAs) in North America and the U.S. Caribbean.

The areas covered by these NOx ECAs are vast and include strategically and economically critical coastal regions.

And while no European waters are currently designated as NOx Emission Control Areas, ships traveling there still must conform to existing international emission restrictions that went into effect starting in 2011.

Good news

For those concerned about shipping industry emissions, this is good news – and a sight better than what might have happened, considering some parties starting in 2013 proposed a broad delay in the new limits until 2021. They argued it wasn’t urgent, there was insufficient evidence and that it would be too difficult to comply using current technologies. (Last year in Conversations I considered ramifications of such an unfavorable postponement.)

Thankfully, however, efforts by the International Council on Clean Transportation and other groups helped convince the IMO to fix the kickoff date to Jan. 1, 2016 starting in North America and the Caribbean, rather than pushing it back.

These new environmental rules mean engine builders and ship operators working in an already tough business environment due to overcapacity and rising fuel costs must continue to innovate and adopt efficiency and technology measures to optimize performance and stay competitive, while not running afoul of regulators.

At the big SMM 2014 marine technology fair in Hamburg this September, technology leaders and operators of ocean-going vessels shared their views and measures for meeting the NOx-related IMO Tier III requirements at a discussion hosted by the International Council on Combustion Engines, or CIMAC, titled “The Impact of IMO Tier III Emissions Legislation on Power Systems.”

Some of the methods presented during the “CIMAC Circle” event as viable options included: two-stage turbocharging; variable valve timing; exhaust gas recirculation (EGR); selective catalytic reduction (SCR); and LNG fueling. These solutions bring a mix of advantages and challenges in both capital and operating expenditure.

ABB solutions

ABB Turbocharging, which has a long history of boosting the efficiency of marine engines, is again well-positioned to support engine builders with a range of solutions to meet IMO Tier III requirements while keeping overall costs in check.

For example, ABB’s Valve Control Management (VCM) supports the use of dual-fuel engines – diesel and gas fueling – and when used in combination with ABB’s dedicated two-stage turbocharging system, Power2, can achieve a considerable reduction in fuel consumption and emissions for four-stroke applications.

The wide map design of the high-pressure stage compressor in ABB’s Power2 system enables the integration of exhaust gas recirculation solutions. Though selective catalytic reduction is a key solution for reducing emissions, it also tends to reduce efficiency in turbocharging. That’s why applying selective catalytic reduction requires a high-efficiency turbocharger like ABB’s A200-L, compatible with two-stroke systems.

So, ready or not, the global marine sector has “seen it coming” for years and must accordingly act swiftly and positively – now – to the International Marine Organization’s demands on behalf of a clean and healthy planet.

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About the author

Axel Kettmann

Axel Kettmann is Senior Vice President, Head of Sales, Marketing and Service at ABB Turbocharging in Baden, Switzerland. A native of Germany, he worked for several years as a partner in a Hamburg legal firm, where he specialized in corporate law and contract negotiation before beginning his work as General Counsel in Germany for US company Caterpillar. He joined ABB Turbocharging as General Manager of Service in 2005.
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