Pushing the envelope for a less polluting marine industry
Solvay’s exhaust treatment system for ships is ready to deploy
The Piana is about to become the world’s first vessel to be equipped with SOLVAir® Marine, the exhaust cleaning system developed by Solvay together with our partner Andritz. Operated by French ferry company La Méridionale and connecting the island of Corsica with the mainland, the Piana was initially fitted with dry sorbent injection devices for one of its four main engines in 2019. After 18 months of real-life testing and fine-tuning, the Piana will be fully retrofitted in late 2021, so that its exhaust will be largely rid of pollutants such as sulfur oxides and particles (greater than a 99% reduction for both).
With SOLVAir® Marine, we are ahead of our time, ahead of regulation, and doing something good for the planet.
The challenges of marine application
Under the brand name SOLVAir®, Solvay offers flue gas treatment for polluting activities. Our innovative solution is based on tailored sodium-based products and strong technical support. These products are injected into a facility’s exhaust in order to capture noxious molecules before they exit the smokestack – a process known as DSI, or dry sorbent injection. This has been successfully applied on-land to industrial plants such as Waste to Energy (WtE) plants, thermal power stations and cement factories – with the added benefit that the residue can be recycled to re-enter the production process of sodium carbonate, a concrete application of the circular economy.
In theory, the same process can be applied at sea to clean the exhaust gases resulting from the use of heavy fuel oil, the sulfur-rich fuel for ships. But the reality is more complex. “When we started looking at the idea of applying our technology on ships, we were enthusiastic,” says Thomas Bauer, Global Project Director at SOLVAir® Marine. “But it implied a series of challenges like space on the ship for machinery and sorbent storage, additional weight and organizing the supply chain, among others.”
With time, all these challenges were overcome. After conclusive tests on land, at the University of Flensburg, Germany with a marine diesel engine burning heavy fuel oil, there was no other way to validate the technology than to take it to a real ship. With its long-standing environmental commitment, La Méridionale was the perfect partner, and the rapidly changing regulatory context made the project all the more relevant: as of January 2020, the sulfur content authorized globally for marine exhaust dropped from 3.5% to 0.5%. “Actually, more stringent sulfur content and particle emission regulations, as applied to cars and Waste to Energy plants for example, would push our efforts forward faster,” says Jan Navratil, Business Development Manager at SOLVAir® Marine. “At the moment, we can only count on the sustainability commitment of companies such as La Méridionale to move forward with this technology, but it’s a good start.”
As an added incentive for companies to adopt SOLVAir® Marine as an industry standard, the technology has received the internationally-recognized Solar Impulse Efficient Solution label following a rigorous assessment process conducted by independent experts who recognized the solution’s credible environmental and economic performance as superior to mainstream options.
I’m proud our team was able to get this project running. It’s beneficial for the passengers and staff, for people working in ports and living in coastal areas, and beyond that, it’s completely in line with Solvay’s sustainability objectives.
In line with sustainability objectives
The Covid-19 pandemic delayed the decision process given the downturn in global activity. Despite this, in early 2021, the company decided to move forward with a retrofit of all engines on its ship. This will be conducted during a scheduled maintenance stop in November, and the Piana will start sailing with its fully operating DSI system in early 2022. “It will be the first successful use of this technology at sea,” says Jan. “There have been trials on other ships, by other companies, with other sorbents, but they didn’t work out. Now that we have proven our technology, we will certainly equip other vessels with sodium sodium-based DSI systems in the future.”
Enabling the marine industry to curb its noxious emissions is yet another way Solvay is contributing to reducing the environmental impact of human activities with its products – an aspect of the project that Thomas and Jan feel strongly about. “I’m happy to be a part of this, and it really reflects on the value that Solvay can bring,” says Jan. “With SOLVAir® Marine, we are ahead of our time, ahead of regulation, and doing something good for the planet.” Thomas adds: “I’m proud our team was able to get this project running. It’s beneficial for the passengers and staff, for people working in ports and living in coastal areas, and beyond that, it’s completely in line with Solvay’s sustainability objectives.”