A mobile sensor system for ships that can both analyse the quality of marine fuel oil during bunkering, and monitor real-time emissions of particulates in exhaust gases, has attracted the watchful eye of the US Coast Guard Service, writes professional journal Ingeniøren (The Engineer). They have sent a deputation to Denmark to assess the technological potential of the system, which has been developed by NanoNord and Aalborg University's nanotechnology centre Inano.
The Coast Guard Service is looking to a future where ships that ply the waters along the US coast will be able to supply a standardised report on environmental emissions, which this newly developed Danish system is designed to provide.
The NMR* spectroscopic system, which was tested during the summer on a Danish ferry, provides both environmental and operational benefits, says director Tommy Thomassen of the Danish shipping company J. Lauritzen which has purchased four of the systems.
"In terms of environmental advantages, it is valuable for us to have access to real time measurements of for example the NOx content of flue gases and thereby keep a watch on fuel combustion efficiency," says Thomassen.
The system also measures the quality of fuel oil during the bunkering process, which can help reduce the risk of expensive breakdowns of a ship's propulsion system due to insufficient fuel quality. This can come about not only as a result of poor fuel composition, but also from deliberate adulteration of the fuel by disreputable suppliers e.g. by blowing compressed air or adding water to the fuel as a means of giving short measure. Both of these tricks will be spotted by the mobile NMR system.
Down the line, NMR technology could also provide an analytical technique for obtaining a unique chemical "fingerprint" of oil washed up on beaches or floating in slicks following deliberate release. It would then be a simple exercise to identify ships in the vicinity carrying oil that matches this fingerprint, and thus find the culprit.
*abbreviation for Nuclear Magnetic Resonance – Ed.