Ship fuels to stay dirty for a decade or more

The IMO passed marine fuel standards last week that will postpone any relief from shipping emissions for a decade or more. The need for action by the U. S. Congress and other nations is more critical than ever before.

The shipping industry is spinning new international standards for ship fuel (bunker) as abig win, but the reality is that it will be more than a decade before there will be any relief from shipping fuel emissions – and even that is couched in a “review” before that date.

So people living near ports will be breathing air emissions from ships for more than another decade. How many cases of asthmas, premature deaths does that mean we have to suffer? The U. S. Congress must pass the Marine Vessel Emissions Act to require cleaner fuels right away.

Here is the actual IMO tiering:
Worldwide fuel standards: 3.5% sulfur content by 2012 and 0.5% by 2020.
Sulphur Emissions Control Areas: 1.0% sulfur content in 2010 and 0.1% in 2015.

Why is this so weak?

The average content of ship fuel (bunker) is already 2.7 percent (27,000 parts per million), less than the 3.5 percent proposed (35,000 parts per million sulfur) for 2012. So it will be meaningless until the 2020 tier, which is subject to review so the .5 percent (5,000 ppm) may never be achieved.
There are only two SECAs in the world: North Sea and Baltic. So no one outside that area will benefit unless other SECAs are created. The US has been preparing to petition for one, but who knows if that will go forward.
The standards in SECAs are much better but won’t really help unless we can get the U. S. to put one in place right away.

A coalition of groups recently pressed Congress to move on the Marine Vessels Emissions Act. See letter here.Download foe_catf_and_ccp_sign_on_marine_vessel_emissions_bill_4_7_2008_revised.doc

April 09, 2008 | Permalink

MARPOL Annex VI addresses three headline pollutants, COX, NOX and SOX.

NOX and SOX are regional in impact.
COX is global and relates to global warming.
SOX and NOX relate to health hazards, that is, they have an impact on mortality.

If you want to know how many “lives will be lost” (an expression of fatalities not mortalities) take a look at documents such as “Effects of long term exposure to particulates on mortality rates.” as that used by DEFRA (UK department of the environment) to determine policy.

Particulates in the UK (none of which is more than 35-40miles from the sea) range up to 34micrograms/M3 (ARIC). A safe level has been established at 21ppb. In some rural areas this is approached or exceeded only rarely and in only some urban areas is it exceeded on an annual average basis.

The report referred to suggests a 1microgram/m3 reduction will result in a corresponding change of around 2-6months in life expectancy.

Take a look at the Chemical Engineers Map of shipping pollution and the maximum concentrations are 1-2micrograms/m3.
These areas occur in the Caribbean, the north sea and a few other areas. These are regions where the life expectancy of the populations are the highest on the planet.

Not all shipping pollution reaches land and it is only in some areas that it does so where the pollution is already above the threshold or close enough that shipping pollution will cause the threshold to be exceeded.

The amount of shipping pollution actually intruding into populations is comparatively low. The impact of life expectancy will be low, of the order of a few weeks to maybe 1-2months, according to some.

The cost under the original MARPOL provisions would amount to a premium of $20-$70 a ton which could be readily amortised over a long voyage vessel operating in global areas and SECAs.

A switch to distillates, as advocated by FOE, Oceana etc would result in an increase in COX due to the necessary energy use at the refineries. The beneficiaries would be those people with the longest life expectancies, access to the best medical care, having the least stressful lives and enjoying the best nutrition.
However, anything that increases costs does impact on shipping.
Distillates currently cost around $900 a ton compared to $480 a ton for HFO and the revised MARPOL is expected to add 50% to cost of HFO i.e. $720 a ton, a $250 premium compared to the $20-$70 a ton the original MARPOL was expected to cost.

But that is just the money, there is a cost, in lives, from extreme solutions.
To find out what that impact is is difficult because there is a dearth of real data (nobody has asked the question or done the research) but you can consider an IMF report (Anne O’ Kreuger) on shipping costs and global economics and other papers on Sub-Saharan economies.
These economies are critically dependent on low shipping costs. Because they have a low level of investment they are even less efficient than other economies. Any increase in costs will impact on them and the victims will be some of the poorest people on the planet, with no medicines, living on the margins of starvation and malnutrition and having among the lowest life expectancies on the planet.

NOX: shipping produces around 3% of fossil fuel NOX, fossil fuel NOX is around 1% of anthropogenic NOX (the rest is from agriculture and biomass burning) and athropogenic NOX is around 10-12% of total NOX. Naturally produced NOX from bacterial action, electrical storms, volcanic action etc. far outweighs anthropogenic NOX so when Oceana says a switch to distillates will drastically reduce pollution, including NOX, a powerful greenhouse gas, they are right but cutting shipping NOX will not actually benefit global warming in the slightest and distillates will increase the CO2 burden.

SOX has a uncertain role in mortality (see report mentioned) but it is a global chilling agent, so much so that a Nobel Prize winning scientist suggests using missiles and artillery to project Sulfur into the atmosphere to counteract global warming and more recently others have suggested artificial volcanoes.

MARPOL seeks to reduce CO2 and NOX globaly through engine design and SOX from the fuel.

The balanced solution originally proposed would deliver benefits to a wealthy healthy long lived elite, OK fine, but with limited impact on fuel costs.
The Latest MARPOL changes induced by external pressure and ill-informed propaganda will deliver a marginally better improvement to that elite but now the costs are rocketing and this will claim an unknown number of lives from among the poorest and least well off people on the planet.

Is that the deal you want?

Posted by: Observer | April 10, 2008 at 06:34 AM

~ by fredfelleman on May 7, 2008.

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