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Opinion swings against scrubbers

Wed 11 Oct 2017 by Paul Fanning

Opinion swings against scrubbers

Paul Fanning discusses how, having previously being seen as a cost-effective method of compliance, recent events have caused doubt over the use of scrubbers

Not so long ago, a consensus appeared to be growing that the use of exhaust gas scrubbers potentially represented a sensible and potentially even lucrative method of compliance with the global sulphur cap.

The logic of this argument is that, as the 2020 deadline approaches, the cost of residual fuel will plummet, meaning that those shipowners who had fitted scrubbers would suddenly see a marked return on investment, particularly as compared to those having to pay for more expensive low-sulphur fuels.

However sound this argument may seem, fast forward a few months and things are no longer looking quite as rosy for this market. Led by Maersk, several major shipping companies, including Hapag-Lloyd and Klaveness have now asserted that they have no plans to fit scrubbers and will instead be burning low-sulphur fuel or converting to LNG come 2020.

The reasons given for this are various. Fitting scrubbers, they say, is too expensive across large fleets, the technology is not sufficiently reliable and even pollution that it is time to move away from heavy fuel oil and that scrubbers – by allowing it to be used – could facilitate ‘cheating’ of the sulphur cap.

Another possible reason that has been suggested is the fear that regulation of CO2 emissions further down the line could render scrubbers obsolete after only a few years of operation.

Whatever the reasons, the fact is that sentiment currently appears to be swinging against scrubbers. Things can change, however. Some believe that heads may be turned as residual prices fall.

Given this uncertainty, it is unsurprising that many shipowners are still waiting until the last minute to make their choices on this matter and - given the speed with which opinions change at the moment – it’s hard to blame them.

For more discussion on this topic, join us at the Asian Emissions Technology Conference 2017 on 6 November in Singapore. To find out how, visit www.emissionstechnologyasia.com