Measuring CO2 – the technology is out there

In fringe event discussions around the recent Asia Green Shipping event in Singapore, debate oscillated over the applicability of the various efficiency indexes emerging in the shipping sector. The most widely debated index, the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI), which is likely to be mandated for newbuild vessels at July’s IMO MEPC meeting has its detractors and supporters in almost equal measure. But a plethora of other indices suggest that operations as well as design need to have a means of measuring CO2.

With that, perhaps it is little wonder that in the last eighteen months we have seen the emergence of from the Carbon War Room, the Environmental Ship Index (ESI) from the World Ports Climate Initiative (WPCI), the Swedish-led Clean Shipping Index and the ‘container focused’ Clean Cargo Working Group index.

The likes of Caterpillar, Volvo and Wal-Mart are now asking for emissions data and Maersk Line has become the first shipping line to publish independently verified CO2 emissions data, vessel by vessel. However, this needs to be accurately assessed, and the days of measuring CO2 through a ‘back of the envelope’ calculation based on the amount of bunker fuel purchased will not meet international standards for CO2 data collection in the medium to long-term. It would be considered wholly inadequate, for example, to have a power station’s CO2 measurements based on the amount of fossil energy that was processed in the plant.

The argument for indexing and benchmarking is over. The sheer number of regulatory and commercial indices emerging suggests that the shipping industry now understands the importance of collecting and comparing emissions data. The next challenge is to ensure that, when “future proofing” a vessel that it meets accurate data standards both now and in years to come.

Take a newbuild vessel built in 2013; it is probable that this vessel will have a minimum 25-year working life, so an asset that will still be in service in 2038. The likelihood is that this vessel’s owners will, by 2013, have to report its Ship Energy Efficiency Management Plan (SEEMP) and EEDI to IMO. Under the likely subsequent implementation of a bunker levy or emissions trading scheme, the need for accurate CO2 data will be just as critical.

Shipping’s approach to calculating CO2 through unreliable bunker delivery notes will undoubtedly have to become more sophisticated. Not least when many owner / operators complain of inaccurate bunker deliveries (and so, by default, inaccurate emissions data) and when, looking ahead, the measurement of CO2 will determine how much levy or carbon traded is afforded to a company.

Of course, emissions monitoring is already a fact of life for shipping and IMO MARPOL Annex VI’s regulations have made emissions monitoring an essential function. Sulphur content limits in the North Sea, English Channel and Baltic Emission Control Areas (ECAs) will be reduced from 1.0% to just 0.1% in 2015, requiring more sophisticated monitoring systems, and most vessels in EU ports already need to comply with EC Regulation 2005/33/EC, which limits sulphur content to 0.1%.

More ECAs are also on the way. A vast US-Canadian ECA will take effect from July 2012, a US-Caribbean ECA has been approved and Japan is reported to be preparing an ECA application. Vessels in these areas will need to monitor their emissions in order to demonstrate compliance.

The most effective method for measuring emissions is through in-situ monitoring using a Continuous Emissions Monitoring (CEM) system. This is accepted land based practice in many critical emissions monitoring applications. In contrast to extractive sampling where an exhaust gas sample needs to be physically extracted from the system and then analysed, ‘in-situ’ emissions monitoring provides a continuous, real time measurement of the content of your exhaust gases. In-situ is reliable and cheap to operate. Marinised to answer the demands of the developing industry for sea water scrubbing, these systems are accurate to a few ppm (parts per million) with gas species-specific ranges from 100->1000ppm depending on what requires measuring. Data is available instantly and continuously- in the engine room or on the bridge.

Asia Green Shipping’s corridor mutterings concluded that whilst indexing and benchmarking have a significant role to play, ultimately complex formulas will – as a natural course of things – become redundant, with real time data taken from that stack through CEMS becoming the norm.

The technology is there to provide accurate CO2 measurement. Can owners and operators continue to rely upon often disputable data methodology and accuracy to assess their emissions, and, in so doing, leave to chance the amount of fuel burnt to meet regulations, or the amount paid for an emissions levy or carbon credits in years to come?

Seatrade Asia, June 2011