Danish researchers and shipowners have teamed up to develop new sensor technology to measure soot concentration in stack emissions. Their work is aimed at preparing for future regulations on black carbon, which are expected soon.
Black carbon - produced by incomplete combustion of fuel - is the second most important category of warming-related emissions from shipping. The suspended black particles absorb the sun's heat and transfer it to the surrounding air. When black carbon drifts down and lands on ice, its color accelerates the absorption of heat into the ice, speeding up melting. This is particularly harmful in the Arctic: once the heat-reflecting sea ice is gone, the open water that takes its place absorbs the sun's heat more readily, and warming proceeds at a locally-higher rate. Black carbon also has significant harmful consequences for human health, as the fine particles get drawn deep into the lungs.
In 2018, the IPCC recommended a reduction of global black carbon emissions of at least 35 percent by 2050 in order to limit temperature rise to 1.5 degrees C. As black carbon only stays suspended in the atmosphere for about two weeks, reducing soot emissions would be a rapid and effective way of limiting climate change in the short term.
There are currently no restrictions or monitoring requirements for soot emissions from shipping, but it is expected that the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will introduce more strict regulation within a few years' time. The measurement technology for black carbon will play an important role in monitoring and evaluating new emission reduction technologies and alternative fuels.
"Our dialogue with several players in the industry has shown that there is a desire for a cost-effective tool that can document black carbon emissions and the effect of new technology. Therefore, the goal of the project is to develop a robust and simple black carbon sensor that measures emissions in real-time and is designed for use on ships," said Morten Køcks, Danish Technological Institute.
The project is led by Green Instruments A/S, a Danish company that develops measuring equipment for the maritime sector and other industries. The company sees a strong need for equipment for measuring black carbon emissions.
"As far as we know, there is no robust technology on the market that can continuously document black carbon emissions on ships against the requirements we expect from the IMO. At the same time, shipping companies are already showing an interest in being able to collect continuous measurement data," says Poul Kodal Sorensen, Executive Technical Advisor for Green Instruments A/S.
The first customers will be shipping companies with a proactive approach to measuring and documenting emissions. This includes cruise ships sailing in the Arctic region and several Danish companies which have signed on to help with testing. An early version of the sensor will be tested aboard a DFDS vessel.
The project runs from early 2021 to mid-2023, and additional partners include MOL Chemical Tankers, Danske Maritime, and Danish Shipping, with support from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.