In today’s “duh” study, we have a report from NOAA that says that huge container ships can reduce emissions of certain particulates, like sulfur dioxide, by as much as 90% by using cleaner types of fuel. But are the economics there?
Most massive ships use the lowest grade of fuel available, often called Bunker Fuel C, because it is also the cheapest fuel available, often containing impurities like water and mineral sands. This is just plain old nasty stuff, the leftover residue from gasoline and diesel production that has a high viscosity (i.e. its thick) and a higher preheating temperature. In fact, Bunker Fuel has to be kept at a constant 100 degrees F before it can even be pumped.
What NOAA found is that when ships slow down near the coast, and switch to low-sulfur fuels, sulfur dioxide content dropped 91% from 49 grams of emissions per kilogram of fuel to 4.3 grams Particulate emissions also dropped 90%, and black carbon levels fell 41%. No duh. Major shipping lines have already pledged to reduce their emissions levels with cleaner fuels and more advanced technology. But you’re still talking about a ship that is burning anywhere from 50 to 60 metric tons of fuel per day. With the prices of bunker fuel hovering around $650 per metric ton, you’re talking about a substantial increase in prices…which gets passed along to the consumer.
What is really at work here is economics. And right now, the world economy relies on the cheap movement of goods across the vast oceans and seas that cover 70% of the planet. We all want cleaner air…as long as it doesn’t add to the bottom line of the next iPhone’s price.
Chris DeMorro is a writer and gearhead who loves all things automotive, from hybrids to HEMIs. You can read about his slow descent into madness at Sublime Burnout or follow his non-nonsensical ramblings on Twitter @harshcougar.