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A solution found in the depths of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) — an innovative technology for exhaust gas cleaning developed by Polish scientists.
Vessels are one of the world’s largest ocean pollutants — they use cheap fuel which produces harmful emissions. But it will not stay like that for long — the International Maritime Organization has introduced rules setting that until 2020
it is necessary to reduce leakage of toxic chemicals, so sailors will have to find new solutions. An international team of researchers, together with the maritime transport industry, has started working on its implementation, and Riga Technical University (RTU) Centre of High Energy Physics and Accelerator Technologies has been appointed the project coordinator, and the development of the prototype for the new technology will be carried out at the Riga Shipyard, in Latvia.
The maritime transport industry is a notable business — around 90 % of cargo flow takes place along the sea routes. The IFO 380 marine fuel combustion creates sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen monoxide (NO) which are respectively referred to as SOx and NOx. However, based on the UN regulation, after two years, its leakage will be limited and sailors, if they want to continue their business activities, will have to clean the emissions before they get into the atmosphere, says Toms Torims, CERN scientific associate, RTU Professor and Director of the Centre of High Energy Physics and Accelerator Technologies. Known emission treatment technologies are expensive, so no one
in the industry is in a rush to implement them. For example, to clean up SOx, we need a large amount of energy and ammonia. It is a financial burden because a medium-sized vessel would need one filter that costs around EUR 1.5 million, and it is dangerous as well, because ammonia would have to be kept on board. It is also difficult, as none of the methods we know about can be used for both sulfur dioxide and nitrogen monoxide. Each of them needs its own method — this is expensive and difficult.
While becoming aware of the technologies created by CERN, T. Torims identified the technology developed by a ARIES (Accelerator Research and Innovation for European Science and Society) partner the Warsaw Institute of Nuclear Chemistry and Technology, which can clean up harmful vessel emissions for half the cost of currently known and used technologies.
Polish scientists offer to clean emissions by placing a particle accelerator inside the vessel’s mechanism, to be more precise — inside the funnel— that would use an electron beam to irradiate exhaust gas created after burning the fuel, dividing it into «easy fractions» The «processed» emissions can later be cleaned with traditional methods, consuming much less energy and not using ammonia, as well as, which is particularly important, cleaning both SOx and NOx at the same time.
After identifying the technology, T. Torims has received a CERN mandate to bring the project forward, and it has given him the opportunity to meet Polish scientists. «They have carried out tests, combusted the fuel, and proven that the technology works,» says T. Torims.
Cleaning of vessel exhaust gas is an acute problem, a bomb with a timer for any seaman, that is why exhaust gas cleaning project involves all stakeholders — European Commission, which is responsible for maritime surveillance; the most significant shipping lines, such as Mediterranean Shipping Company, which is the largest container carrier in the world, and passenger carrier company Grimaldi Lines; accelerator technology manufacturers; and scientists. Project funding is provided both from CERN ARIES, whose goal is to develop European particle accelerator infrastructure, and from contributions made by the members of the project.
The above-mentioned invention is undergoing a patenting process, but we do not have the answer to the question whether the innovative technology is going to work on a vessel that is vibrating and swaying. That is why the prototype
for the new technology will be created and tested at the Riga Shipyard in the coming months.
Invention of Warsaw scientists created while collaborating with CERN, is much more versatile and can be widely used — not only in vessel mechanisms, but also, for example, for cleaning ballast water and heating plant exhaust gases, so it will, most likely, have a significant impact on creating and implementing greener technologies both on water and on land.