As Baltic Sea regulators enforce new waste-management procedures, Scanship uses the opportunity to develop holistic solutions that meet environmental guidelines while minimising byproducts and energy consumption. CEO Henrik Badin explains his approach.
Waste management and sustainability often go hand in hand, but innovation can create more environmental problems than it solves. Exhaust, wastewater and garbage can all be treated, but what do you do with the byproducts? And how do you offset the fuel you use to power the pumps, scrubbers and incinerators? Such questions are becoming more urgent amid the growing use of scrubbers within the industry, as well as new regulations requiring more-effective waste treatment.
The IMO Marine Environmental Protection Committee (MEPC) adopted the Marpol 227(64) Chapter 4.2 regulations in 2012, but they only came into force last year. The regulations prevent the discharge of sewage into the Baltic Sea special area unless it has been treated with an approved system to bring nitrogen and phosphorus below specified levels. Scanship, a Norway-based provider of marine waste-management solutions, worked closely with IMO and Baltic Sea regulators to develop technology that would hold up to the new regulations.
"In summer, the Baltic Sea is almost green," says Scanship CEO Henrik Badin of the current algal blooms caused by rising nutrient levels. "In municipalities in Finland and Sweden, these standards have existed for more than 30 years. So why shouldn't the marine industry also comply with them?"
The resulting advanced wastewater purification (AWP) system was installed on Royal Caribbean's Quantum of the Seas and was the first, in 2013, to be approved for use in the Baltic Sea. The AWP is designed to treat 100% of wastewater rather than only black water. It uses no high-pressure pumps or filters, relying mainly on gravity to produce clean, non-potable but reusable water without placing unnecessary load on the engines.
"One of the reasons we are market leaders is that we have been very focused on low energy consumption," says Badin.
Once the water is clean, the resulting sludge must be taken care of. Incinerator use is forbidden in the Baltic Sea and along the coast of Alaska so, for the past five years, Scanship has been working on a way to reuse biosludge and other waste.
"There's a lot of energy in the waste itself that is not used. Recovering that energy means less fuel is consumed, so we've been looking for ways to do so," Badin explains.
The technology uses microwaves to convert waste carbon into synthesis gas, or syngas: a combustible fuel source consisting mainly of carbon monoxide and hydrogen. This can then be converted into electricity to help power the ship - simultaneously resulting in lower fuel consumption and less flue gas produced by waste incineration. The system is currently undergoing tests at a specialised Scanship facility, with plans to bring it to market in 2018. Badin estimates that it could recover 2-3% of a ship's total annual fuel budget, noting that many waste-processing technologies - such as exhaust scrubbers - use extra fuel even when their purpose is to minimise environmental damage.
"We're not installing new technologies to be more sustainable. We're becoming sustainable by fuelling new technology with the positive energy output from the process," Badin explains.
With that in mind, Scanship is also developing a system to treat the wash water from scrubbers, which is currently pumped into the sea despite being loaded with sulphur, heavy metals and soot from ship exhausts. Badin says the cruise industry installs more scrubbers than other marine sectors and that they will not go unregulated for long.
"More areas are focused on dealing with the wash water; just pumping it back overboard is not going to be allowed. It needs to be treated," he says.
The need for environmental protection is set to become ever more urgent as cruising expands throughout the Baltic and Arctic regions. In this climate, effective waste-management solutions do more than just treat the waste they were designed for; they tackle every facet of the problem to ensure their only byproducts are better green credentials.