China’s Open Loop Scrubbers Ban Impact


After Singapore, China has announced an open loop scrubber whose impact is going to be felt on the maritime industry as it prepares for sulphur cap deadline. Here’s an insight from the Viswalab on what it means for the shipping industry.

The Open Loop Scrubber Ban

As per China’s Ministry of Transport, in the Emission Control Areas (ECA) marked in the map, no discharge will be allowed from Open Loop Scrubbers. Also, no residue for Open Loop Scrubber can be burnt. Ships are required to record details of wastewater and residue disposal. The regulations kick in from January 1.

In the US, Open Loop Scrubber discharge is not allowed in California and Connecticut. Singapore has recently announced that they will not allow this discharge in port limits. In Germany, this discharge is not allowed in inland waterways, canals and port. This discharge is not allowed at all in Dublin, Ireland. It is likely that more countries may declare similar regulations.

What does this mean?

As the rules stand now, it is possible to process 3.5% sulfur fuel in open loop mode (using only sea water for scrubbing) globally. The scrubber washwater discharge is allowed up to the limit of the defined ECA areas. China had stipulated in 2018 that in the coastal waters and inland rivers only 0.5% sulfur fuel could be used. If the scrubbing was carried out by ships in open loop mode, they will be discharging all the scrubber water in Inland and ECA areas.

The new regulation will not allow this open loop water to be discharged. This means that either the vessel has to changeover to use of distillate fuel (or equivalent 0.5%/0.1% sulfur fuel) or go for Closed Loop scrubbers. This is because in Open Loop mode the quantity of water for scrubbing is very large and it cannot be stored on the ship.

Alternate Solution

This brings us to the comparison of using Hybrid Scrubbers (Open Loop and Closed Loop operation), using chemicals or the alternate solution of using a 0.5% low sulfur fuel with higher cost in ECA areas.

How to counter the ban?

If the vessel is in ECA area for more than 30‐40% of the time, you could consider using a Hybrid Scrubber System and operating on Closed Loop mode when in ECA area. You have to contend with the cost of chemicals and disposal of sludge.

The alternative is to switchover to 0.5% low sulfur fuel when in ECA area. The differential cost in high but all the existing tanks and pipelines can be used without any changes or any difficulty.

This is a choice each shipowner/operator has to make.

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Source: Viswa Lab


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