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Study finds scrubbers have lower climate impact than low-sulfur fuel

A recent report from CE Delft, an independent research and consultancy organization, regarding the climate impact of Exhaust Gas Cleaning (EGC) systems for the marine industry. The study compares the results to the use of low-sulfur marine fuels and is made from a well-to-wake perspective in order to achieve an accurate comparison.

The report concludes that the environmental impact of EGCs will be less than that of low-sulfur marine fuel. It notes that CO2 emissions associated with producing and installing an EGC system are small compared to those generated when operating the system.

The CO2 emissions are mainly related to the energy demand of the system’s pumps, which typically result in a total increase in CO2 emissions of between 1.5% and 3%.

By contrast, with de-sulfurized fuels the overall CO2 footprint increase is a result of the refining processes. Theoretical calculations range from an increase in CO2 emissions of 1% to as much as 25% when removing the sulfur content of the fuel.

The report states that while the lower figure is not in fact physically possible, the higher percentage increase is applicable only to a quality of fuel that is too high for marine applications. The conclusion, therefore, is that the CO2 emissions associated with the production of low-sulfur marine fuels will be between these extreme values.


This study provides a comprehensive overview of the climate impacts of different options to reduce sulfur emissions. It shows that in many cases, the carbon footprint of using a scrubber is lower than low-sulfur fuels.

—Jasper Faber, Project Manager at CE Delft

Research has indicated that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from shipping have increased by more than 10% in the last five years. These emissions are projected to increase by up to 50% by 2050, which means that if the International Maritime Organization’s goal to significantly lower the industry’s GHG emissions is to be achieved, scrutiny of all aspects of shipping is necessary.

Reducing CO2 emissions while complying with the IMO’s MARPOL Annex VI is one such important aspect.



It took more than 10 years to phase in low sulfur diesel, good for the air.

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