11 October 2008

Singapore to be a Sulphur Emission Control Area by 2015?

Large amounts of sulphur are emitted by ships and harm humans and marine life. Members of the International Maritime Organization (which includes Singapore) recently agreed to changes that will progressively reduce in sulphur emissions.

There are only two SECA currently -- the North Sea and the Baltic -- but it is expected that the European Union, the U.S., Japan, Singapore and Australia will be declared SECA by that time.

Just how much pollution do ships generate? Why should we care?

How much pollution do ships generate?
from Ships Among Highest Air Pollution Sources Cited In Science Magazine Article on EurekAlrt 30 Oct 97;
Air emissions from trade-carrying cargo ships powered by diesel engines are among the world's highest polluting combustion sources per ton of fuel consumed.

Taking into account ship nitrogen and sulfur emissions, the authors estimate that these emissions affect global background pollution levels. Air over the North Pacific is more polluted than air over the South Pacific, and ship traffic is more concentrated in these areas studied.
What are the impacts of sulphur emissions from ships?
From Pollution from marine vessels linked to heart and lung disease on EurekAlert 7 Nov 07;
Pollution from marine shipping causes approximately 60,000 premature cardiopulmonary and lung cancer deaths around the world each year.

Annual deaths related to shipping emissions in Europe are estimated at 26,710, while the mortality rate is 19,870 in East Asia and 9,950 in South Asia. North America has approximately 5,000 premature deaths, concentrated mostly in the Gulf Coast region, the West Coast and the Northeast, while the eastern coast of South America has 790 mortalities.
from Dirty smoke from ships found to degrade air quality in coastal cities on EurekAlert 18 Aug 08;
Chemists at UC San Diego have measured for the first time the impact that dirty smoke from ships cruising at sea and generating electricity in port can have on the air quality of coastal cities. Dirty smoke from ships burning high-sulfur fuel can be substantial, on some days accounting for nearly one-half of the fine, sulfur-rich particulate matter in the air known to be hazardous to human health.

Primary sulfate, or SO4, is produced when ships burn a cheap, sulfur-rich fuel called "bunker oil." Most of the sulfur emitted by ships burning bunker oil is released as sulfur dioxide, or SO2, a gaseous pollutant which is eventually converted to sulfate in the atmosphere. But although SO4 may be a smaller component in ship emissons, the scientists say, these primary sulfate particulates are particularly harmful to humans, because they are especially fine microscopic particles, less than 1.5 microns or millionth of a meter in size. As a result, they can travel extremely long distances because they stay in the atmosphere for longer periods and, unlike bigger dust grains and particles that are removed by the body when breathed, remain in the lungs.
from Ship sulfur emissions found to strongly impact worldwide ocean and coastal pollution on EurekAlert 19 Aug 96;
Sulfur emissions contribute to acid rain, which can pollute freshwater lakes and rivers, and damage vegetation.

"Ships also have been known to contribute to the formation of clouds over the ocean," Pandis said. "Sulfur emissions have a large role in the formation of aerosols (tiny particles) on which water condenses to form clouds. The interactions of aerosols and clouds have been identified as one of the most important uncertainties in understanding the rate of climate change, or global warming, because clouds reflect energy and thereby reduce the net warming effect of long-lived greenhouse gases.
from Acid rain has a disproportionate impact on coastal waters on EurekAlert 7 Sep 07;
The release of sulfur and nitrogen into the atmosphere by power plants and agricultural activities plays a minor role in making the ocean more acidic on a global scale, but the impact is greatly amplified in the shallower waters of the coastal ocean.

Ocean “acidification” occurs when chemical compounds such as carbon dioxide, sulfur, or nitrogen mix with seawater, a process which lowers the pH and reduces the storage of carbon. Ocean acidification hampers the ability of marine organisms—such as sea urchins, corals, and certain types of plankton—to harness calcium carbonate for making hard outer shells or “exoskeletons.”

In addition to acidification, excess nitrogen inputs from the atmosphere promote increased growth of phytoplankton and other marine plants which, in turn, may cause more frequent harmful algal blooms and eutrophication (the creation of oxygen-depleted “dead zones”) in some parts of the ocean.

When nitrogen and sulfur compounds from the atmosphere are mixed into coastal waters, the researchers found, the change in water chemistry was as much as 10 to 50 percent of the total changes caused by acidification from carbon dioxide.

This rain of chemicals changes the chemistry of seawater, with the increase in acidic compounds lowering the pH of the water while reducing the capacity of the upper ocean to store carbon.
Why is there so much pollution from ships compared to other transportation modes?
from Ship sulfur emissions found to strongly impact worldwide ocean and coastal pollution on EurekAlert 19 Aug 96;
Ships use the tar-like, sulfur-concentrated remains of petroleum left once the gasoline, oil and all other products have been extracted. This high-sulfur fuel is responsible for the significant environmental impacts of ship sulfur emissions.
From Pollution From Marine Vessels Linked To Heart And Lung Disease on Science Daily 12 Nov 07;
Ships run on residual oil, which has sulfur content thousands of times greater than on-road diesel fuel. “Residual oil is a byproduct of the refinery process and tends to be much dirtier than other petroleum products,”
from Ships Among Highest Air Pollution Sources Cited In Science Magazine Article on EurekAlert 30 Oct 97;
The concentration of contaminants such as sulfur, ash asphaltenes and metals in the residuals (or marine fuels) has increased over the decades, especially since the 1973 fuel crisis when residual fuels were starting to be made using secondary refining technologies to extract the maximum quantity of refined products (distillates) from crude oil. Other ship fuels are distillate oils of higher grade; however, these are often blended with residuals. Seventy to 80 percent of commercial shippers prefer to use the cheaper residual fuels.
What are the new sulphur emission standards?
from the IMO website 10 Oct 08;
The global sulphur cap will be reduced initially to 3.50% (from the current 4.50%), effective from 1 January 2012; then progressively to 0.50 %, effective from 1 January 2020, subject to a feasibility review to be completed no later than 2018.

The limits applicable in Sulphur Emission Control Areas (SECAs) will be reduced to 1.00%, beginning on 1 July 2010 (from the current 1.50 %); being further reduced to 0.10%, effective from 1 January 2015.

Progressive reductions in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from marine engines were also agreed, with the most stringent controls on so-called "Tier III" engines, i.e. those installed on ships constructed on or after 1 January 2016, operating in Emission Control Areas.
What are the impacts of sulphur emission controls?
Besides having cleaner air and safer water, from Nations agree to slash sulfur ship emission by 2015 Reuters 10 Oct 08;
The ambitious targets will likely cost the oil and ship industry billions of dollars to implement. They could also raise the price of road transport fuels. "The big question will be whether or not the oil refining industry will be able to deliver this new demand for distillate that is going to be created for shipping"
More about shipping in Singapore from Toxic marine paints and Singapore snails:

Does Singapore get a lot of ships? Yes we do. Singapore has a humungous fleet, enormous numbers of ships from all over the world stop by, and we have a mind-boggling number of shipyards on our shores.

Singapore's fleet is among the 10 largest worldwide.
from A celebration of all things nautical David Hughes, Business Times 17 Sep 08

On average, Singapore attracts some 140,000 vessel calls annually. There are about 1,000 ships in the port at any one time. Singapore remains a focal point for some 200 shipping lines with links to more than 600 ports in over 120 countries worldwide.
from the MPA website

Singapore also has 89 shipyards on our shores.
from Seven shipyard deaths in 7 weeks Teh Joo Lin, Straits Times 24 Jul 08


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