Particle accelerator innovation steers greener, cleaner shipping
EU-funded researchers have developed innovative particle accelerator technology capable of removing harmful sulphur and nitrogen oxide emissions from ship exhaust in a breakthrough that will support the transition to a greener, less-polluting and more sustainable global shipping industry.
© Maurizio Vretenar, 2019
Updated on May 28, 2020
The compact system developed in the EU-funded ARIES project offers a unique solution to tackle hazardous emissions from maritime transport, where the use of low-grade diesel fuel means just one large container ship can produce the same amount of sulphur pollution as 50 million cars.
This hybrid particle accelerator-based system is unique in that it acts on both sulphur and nitrogen as well as particulate matter with a considerable reduction in cost and size compared to other pollution-reduction solutions, says project coordinator Maurizio Vretenar at CERN in Switzerland.
Field trials conducted with an old tugboat in Latvia last year confirmed earlier laboratory tests, suggesting an optimised version of the system could remove as much as 98 % of sulphur oxide (SOx) and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from ship exhaust.
The ARIES solution uses a compact electron-beam accelerator operating at a high voltage to break down sulphur and nitrogen oxide molecules as exhaust gases pass through a plasma chamber. The dissolved pollutants then react with water vapour in the flue gases, forming droplets that are washed out together with particulate matter using jets of seawater in a small conventional wet scrubber. The polluted water is then stored on board for safe disposal in port.
A major advantage of the solution is that it can be easily retrofitted to the worlds large fleet of cargo ships, cruise liners and passenger ferries as well as installed in new-build vessels as the maritime industry prepares to meet increasingly stringent environmental and emissions standards.
The results of this part of the ARIES project are a major step toward sustainable transportation and the establishment of a new green economy. The next challenges are to demonstrate the economic and technical viability of the solution under the real thermal, environmental, mechanical and safety conditions of an operating ship, and to have the technology certified by maritime classification societies, Vretenar says.
A planned follow-up initiative called HERTIS will address those challenges. The project partners will further refine the technology and install a full-scale accelerator and scrubber pilot system aboard a cargo ship operated by a major European shipping company, laying the foundations for the future commercialisation of an optimised version of the pollution-reducing solution.