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Good Day Reader, 

Imagine someone telling you that the water you are using for washing your car will be filtered for microplastics when you pour it over your vehicle. How will you react? Absurd or Confused right? And Why not? like the water you used was meant to clean the car not getting itself being cleaned and filtered.

Well, this scenario might seem impossible on land but this concept is going to revolutionize the shipping industry and next time when you’ll be enjoying yourself at the beach will make you feel better and free from plastics.

Oceans and the Plastics

 According to studies around 14 million tons of plastic lands in our oceans every year. You go to some isolated island and you can account for 80% of the visible debris at the beaches is ALL PLASTIC. Well, this plastic scattered around the beaches looks very shabby, it affects tourism, Economy, and Forex losses.

The more dangerous is the slow erosion of the plastics into Microplastics. These microplastics have the potential to travel inside living beings and it causes various problems like Cancer due to chemicals used in synthesizing plastics, blockage in the arteries, slowing down the metabolism, etc.

Marine life is worst affected by microplastics as they are always in contact with water-containing plastics. Their capabilities to survive & reproduce are reduced and fears of extinction arrive. 

Let’s Talk Science!

Before discussing the actual process I want you to be aware of the scrubbers used on ships. A Scrubber system is an exhaust gas cleaning system to comply with the IMO’s 2020 sulfur emissions standards (0.5% m/m). The scrubber we will revolve around will be the open-loop scrubber which uses seawater as a medium to clean/ wash the exhaust gas.

Image about open loop scrubber

Figure-1, Source: Global Sulfur Cap 2020(Scrubber Tower Focused) by DNV-GL 2019 Update(Page 11)

This filtration system uses special filters at the discharge side with the capability of filtering out plastic particles less than 10 𝛍m. The open-loop scrubber requires 450m3 of water per day for a 10 Megawatt propulsion plant. Imagine this system running continuously and the amount of plastic filtered out of the oceans. This does not require any fancy and sophisticated technology but the idea that Wärtsilä proposed is very creative.

Wärtsilä’s project

Wärtsilä along with Grimladi group piloted this project on one of their vessels and this technology is patented by the Grimladi group.

Official Statement from the Grimladi Group: “Reducing microplastics pollution in our world’s oceans is an important challenge, and we are pleased to provide a solution for the shipping industry.  The idea for this innovative technology originated from recognizing that open-loop exhaust gas cleaning systems can draw seawater for exhaust scrubbing and simultaneously collect microplastic present in the oceans as part of their normal operation”, commented Emanuele Grimaldi, managing director of the Grimaldi Group. “We have already completed pilot testing of this system onboard one of our vessels deployed between Civitavecchia and Barcelona. The results are promising, with 64,680 microplastic particles collected on a single voyage between these two ports. We are glad that Wärtsilä also recognizes the potential of this system, and we look forward to further collaboration to tackle microplastics in our oceans”, Emanuele Grimaldi added

Official Statement from the Wartsila Group: Tamara de Gruyter, President of Marine Systems at Wärtsilä, said: “It is a pleasure to continue our long relationship with Grimaldi and announce this innovation. Microplastics are a pressing environmental challenge and we’re proud to work together with Grimaldi to tackle cleaning up the oceans. Even more importantly, the ability to capture microplastics shows how scrubbers are a platform for solving a wide range of sustainability challenges – and now even ones that are beyond the stack.” 

How well will it go?

At the start of 2022  bunker prices were hitting an all-time high for VLSFO & MGO. This drew attention towards ships fitted with scrubbers as they were still using HFO and keeping the operations cost low and Scrubber payback returns look lucrative. 

This system will still have issues for the vessels sailing the Turkish water as Turkey has abstained from any exchange of scrubber wash water in their territory and they have banned the open-loop scrubber. Will this technology convince Turkish authorities to reconsider? That’s a matter of discussion.

Bibliography & Credits: https://www.wartsila.com/ind/media/news/17-02-2022-wartsila-and-grimaldi-unveil-new-filter-system-to-tackle-ocean-microplastics-3053386

Want to learn more about scrubbers?

About the Author

Hello, I’m Hardik

A Marine Engineer by profession, Hardik loves to read and write about the technical happenings in the maritime industry.