Low-carbon energy gains ground in ports

Alternative fuels have gained ground in the maritime sector due to stricter environmental legislation, such as the Sulphur Directive. At the moment, shipping companies are reducing sulphur emissions mainly by utilising low-sulphur fuels, but new vessels usually make use of LNG.

For this reason, ports especially in the SECA region have started offering low-sulphur fuel and LNG bunkering, which can be carried out using trucks, bunkering vessels or terminals. A number of LNG terminals are currently being constructed in Finland, while the country’s first terminal has been in use in Pori since September 2016. While it is probable that LNG will become the most common alternative fuel in the future, shipping companies are planning to adopt a range of emission-cutting solutions on different vessels. In this light, other fuels such as methanol, whose environmental impact is very similar to that of LNG and which can also be produced from renewable sources, could gain popularity as a fuel for ships. As an example, the cruise ship Stena Germanica which operates the Gothenburg–Kiel route uses methanol as its main fuel.

These findings come out of a KMRC’s project that looked into opportunities to improve ports’ energy efficiency by promoting decarbonisation in ports and related businesses. The research was undertaken as part of the “Low-Carbon Ports” project conducted in partnership with the Maritime Safety and Traffic Research Association, Kymenlaakso University of Applied Sciences, Turku University of Applied Sciences, and the Turku University Brahea Centre for training and research in the maritime sector, Kotka unit.

The project produced reports on alternative fuels and LNG’s emissions over the entire supply chain as well as an energy monitoring model. The examination of the use of LNG showed that the greenhouse emissions from natural gas are primarily made up of carbon dioxide, but also contain methane that is released into the atmosphere. Using accident scenarios, estimates were made of emissions in case of major leaks. From the point of view of ports and shipping companies using LNG, taking the necessary safety measures also serves to minimize unintentional emissions from natural gas. Given the rarity of major leaks, the environmental impact of a single accident is likely to be minor compared to the carbon dioxide emissions produced in normal use. When considering the entire transport chain, efforts to minimize emissions should focus on production, transport and use. Energy suppliers and engine manufacturers are thus best placed to influence emission levels. Fuel comparisons should take due account of nitrogen, sulphur ja particle emissions in addition to greenhouse gases.

The project also saw the development of an energy monitoring model, which enables the real-time monitoring of energy consumption in ports. While the model is currently theoretical, the aim is to develop it into a tool that allows ports to look at their operations from the point of view of energy consumption. Development work on the model entailed e.g. an examination of Loviisan Satama Oy’s frost protection system, changes in port buildings’ heating methods, the suitability of heat pumps, as well as the energy efficiency of heating Oiltanking Sonmarin Oy’s liquid tanks from the perspective of heat generation, transfer and consumption.

NEWSLETTER 27 April 2017

Results presented at DEVPORT symposium in Le Havre

Turku University researcher Olli-Pekka Brunila presented project results at the DEVPORT symposium, organised by Le Havre university on 19 May. The audience featured professors and doctoral students from Baltic, North Sea and Spanish universities. The presentation was based on a research publication detailing the project’s results entitled ”Ecological maritime transportation. How can ports in the Baltic Sea adjust to the changing operational environment?” The presentation was met with interest and sparked lively discussions.

RescOP project presented in Brussels

The results of the RescOP project were presented on 7 October at an ENPI CBC programme workshop, organised in the framework of the EU Open Days 2014 event in Brussels. Researcher Floris Goerlandt (Aalto University) discussed the results and good cooperation practices, which are invaluable when working across borders.

Gastropod unknown to science discovered in Finland

Less than half a centimetre in length, dainty and translucent, small gastropods discovered over the past year in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Hamina have received astonished reactions and international interest. The species in question, which has never been observed before, is likely to be an introduced species possibly transported to Finnish waters by maritime traffic. The gastropods were found during field research conducted in the framework of the EU-ENPI-funded Russo-Finnish TOPCONS project, and were also observed in hard seabed samples taken by divers from the Metsähallitus Nature Service and research vessel Muikku. The depth of the discoveries ranged from a few metres to ten metres.
Work undertaken in the context of the TOPCONS project complements a wider-ranging project (the VELMU programme) mapping the biodiversity of Finland’s underwater marine environment.

Genetic testing and morphological analysis carried out by international experts on marine gastropods could not, however, connect the new discovery to any known species, implying that the newly found gastropod may be unknown to science. It belongs in the family Murchisonellidae, found in all of the world’s oceans, with some related species also observed in Europe. The closest individual sightings of species belonging to the family in question have been reported in the southern Baltic Sea, around the Danish straits. While the gastropod’s origin remains unclear, this is likely to be a brackish environment, as the water off the coast of Hamina only has a salinity level of about 0.4%. They have so far not been found in comparable environments in the western parts of the Gulf of Finland or elsewhere along the Finnish coast. Off the coast of Hamina, however, dozens of individuals were observed, with population densities of up to 500 individuals per square metre.

A description of the new species is being worked on at the Stockholm Natural History Museum, but is expected to take some time. Experts with knowledge of the gastropod family in question from Japan, New Zealand, Chile, Russia and Ukraine have also been involved.

Picture: Katriina Könönen/Metsähallitus