Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has hired a compatriot startup company Explicit to monitor ships’ sulfur emissions using a special “sniffer technology”.
The monitoring, starting early July will be conducted from the air by sampling exhaust plumes from vessels in waters around Denmark, the company said. The operation will deploy a unique sniffer technology developed by Explicit that will be mounted on helicopters – and eventually also drones.
As disclosed, the objective is to detect and deter violations of the 0.10% ECA restriction on sulphur in the bunker fuel.
Explicit will carry 400 measurements until December 1, 2017 and have been given the option to extend monitoring in 2018 and 2019. The monitoring should help to provide EPA with a clear picture of whether the rules are being followed, EPA noted.
“The new Mini Sniffer System is capable of measuring both sulphur and NOX emissions from vessels to determine their compliance, and is small enough to be carried on a drone without compromising quality or reliability. Initially, however, the technology will be deployed on a manned helicopter, but with the prospect of phasing in drones as a supplement in the future,” the company pointed out.
”The manned helicopter is an extremely efficient tool for this purpose, both because of the speed with which it can cover large areas and many ships, but also because of its maneuverability in the plume,” Jon Knudsen Explicit’s CEO said.
As explained, Explicit has developed a patented method known as smart flight, using rotary platforms (helicopters and drones) because of their ability to maneuver in the plume. This is combined with smart flight software that guides the pilot on the real-time sensor feedback to optimize the position for sampling.
Speaking of usage of drones Knudsen said that they have the potential to play a role in emissions enforcement, but the question is where to deploy them.
“Manned helicopters are still the most competitive and preferred option for long-range missions. But both multi-rotors and VTOLs may already be deployed efficiently in near-coastal areas, at harbour entries, rivers and deltas, as well as from inspection vessels,” Knudsen added.
As there has been a lot of attention on the enforcement of MARPOL Annex VI, the company has been approached by authorities and other international partners interested in its technology, including Dutch authorities (ILT).
The new helicopter surveillance will complement the monitoring of sulfur emissions from shipping already implemented using a so-called “sniffer” installed under the Great Belt Bridge.
If the ships emit too much sulfur, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency is notified, and then advises the Danish Maritime Authority, which can take an oil sample from the ship when it is in port. If the oil sample shows that the fuel used contains too much sulfur, the ship is reported to the police. In the case of a foreign ship, the authorities of the country to which the ship is heading is informed.
EPA said that since a sharp limit on sulfur content in marine fuels came into force on January 1, 2015 in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, the sulfur content in the air above Denmark has been more than halved.