Researchers Study Shipping's Black Carbon


By MarEx 2016-06-06 02:54:25

A research project underway to study black carbon is moving closer to the development of a method for measuring emissions from shipping.

VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Tampere University of Technology and the University of Turku have joined forces in an international project – Shipping Emissions in the Arctic – with the aim of making the measurement of black carbon emissions from shipping more reliable. 

Incomplete combustion generates soot containing black carbon, which warms the atmosphere and causes health problems. “A reliable method of measuring black carbon emissions from shipping is sorely needed, now that the IMO is evaluating the need to control such emissions, but no reliable measurement technique has been identified,” says Research Team Leader Jukka Lehtomäki of VTT.

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

A critical examination of maritime black carbon emissions is made all the more urgent by the fact that black carbon is a major contributor to Arctic warming, says the group. Even small deposits of black carbon accelerate melting and climate change, by reducing the reflectivity of snow and ice.

The study aims to assist 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.

Last autumn, emission tests were performed at VTT’s engine laboratory in Espoo, using a 1.6-megawatt diesel engine which corresponds to a typical auxiliary ship engine. The test matrix was extensive enough to make the results internationally applicable. Four marine fuels were tested, of which three contained varying amounts of sulfur (0.1 percent, 0.5 percent and 2.5 percent), whereas an oxygen-containing bio-component accounted for 30 percent of the fourth fuel. 

“The initial results have already revealed critical parameters in the measurement of black carbon. 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,” explains Principal Scientist Päivi Aakko-Saksa of VTT.

The next step will be to validate the results in a real ship equipped with the latest technology, including an exhaust scrubber. The project also explores the business potential of emission measurements. 

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.

VTT’s Shipping Emissions in the Arctic project is part of the Tekes Arctic Seas program. The project was launched in January 2015 and will end in December 2016. 

VTT’s partners in the project include the Finnish Meteorological Institute, Tampere University of Technology, the University of Turku, Wärtsilä Finland, Pegasor, Gasmet Technologies, VG-Shipping, Port of HaminaKotka, Oiltanking Finland, Kine Robot Solutions and VTT’s spin-off Spectral Engines. AVL List from Austria also assisted with the measurements. The multicopter project was coordinated by Aeromon as part of the HyperGlobal project.