Wave of scrubber installations being planned to meet sulphur cap – DNV GL webinar

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A huge wave of scrubber installations are being planned in preparation to meet compliance with the 0.5% sulphur cap which will be implemented in January 2020.

That’s according to classification society DNV GL, which held a webinar yesterday (Wednesday) to inform owners, managers and other stakeholders about retrofits.

There are currently 1,850 ships with installed or confirmed scrubber systems and over 1,000 scrubber projects have been confirmed in just the past six months alone, the majority of these being retrofits.

Stine Mundal, Project Manager Approval, said DNV GL was expecting some “chaos” going into 2020 as owners finally make a decision about how they comply and described the sulphur cap as “a major game changer in how vessels are fuelled”.

In a poll run during the webinar, attendees where asked what they would do to comply.

The biggest number of people – 27% – said they would be installing scrubbers, while 23% said they would switch to MGO or blended fuels. 21% of respondents said they were still unsure while 19% said they would use different approaches and 10% would use LNG/alternative fuels.

Dag Sandal, Principal Consultant, DNV GL, said there were four areas causing uncertainty among owners over whether to install scrubbers – the area of trade; the fuel market and how prices will develop and availability of HFO; market reward such as increased charter rates for vessels with scrubbers; and OPEX – how it will affect the bottom line.

However, he added that “scrubbers may have a significant cost mitigating impact” with the payback of just 1.3 years for an open loop system and 1.7 years for a hybrid system. Assuming the price spread between HFO and compliant fuel is greater than $100/ton scrubbers represent a positive business case and a short payback time for most ship sizes, he said.

Ms Mundal said operators needed to be aware that along with the IMO compliance, there were additional local requirements in some coastal states and port authorities. For instance, Connecticut in the US, Belgium and some ports in Germany do not allow open loop scrubber systems – which are the most popular. California also has a scrubber ban in general.

However, Mr Sandal said that, overall, scrubbers were a “technical feasible solution”.

“Most  scrubbers in operation are able to meet the air emission requirement with some margin,” he said.

In a second poll, attendees were asked ‘What is your main concern for choosing scrubbers?’

The biggest answer, at 23%, was ‘too costly’, while 20% worried it would be difficult to obtain HFO in different ports. 19% said they had no concerns while similar numbers said they believed there would be enough compliant fuel and others did not trust scrubber technology.