Although the use of onboard scrubbers for desulphurisation was perceived by some as a retrograde measure at the time IMO’s 2020 global sulphur cap was being phased in, there is now a growing acceptance of exhaust gas technology as a cost-efficient solution for those shipowners who remain sceptical about the merits of running their vessels on VLSFO or LNG.
Their case has been helped in part by some major operators, such as Maersk, declaring their preference for scrubbers, at least until such a time that carbon-free fuels become a viable proposition.
Another significant proponent has been cruise operator Carnival Corp, notably through its membership of the multi-company lobby group Clean Shipping Alliance 2020. In 2017, Carnival acquired the Italian-based manufacturer Ecospray Technologies, a long-standing partner which has installed more than 600 exhaust gas cleaning systems (EGCS), the majority onboard vessels.
Stefano Di Santo, CEO of Ecospray, says the acquisition transformed the company. He comments: “Being part of Carnival Corporation has given us the opportunity to implement high-performance and reliable technological solutions in record time. We were enabled to gain experience across the entire fleet and unparalleled sailing experience, which has allowed us to build robust solutions and use case specific innovations at speed.”
Alberto Di Cecio, director of Ecospray’s marine department, tells The Naval Architect: “Maritime is our greatest business, but we also operate in the industrial world for gas cleaning, clean fuel production and green power generation. In the maritime market, Ecospray is not only a leader in the scrubber market but also provides technologies for gas and water cleaning and air sanitisation.”
In February, Ecospray launched a new Integrated Internet of Things (IIoT) based desulphurisation solution, the Smart Scrubber. The product, which is being developed in partnership with German IoT specialists relayr, is said to offer shipowners advanced remote AI-enabled control of the scrubber and advanced lifecycle analysis, combined with Ecospray’s “best on class” performance.
As well as optimising the scrubber’s performance, and thereby extending the equipment’s life expectancy, the Smart Scrubber will benefit from remote monitoring while guaranteeing compliance with emissions requirements.
The first three implementations of the Smart Scrubber – onboard a cruise ship, cargo vessel and ro-ro – will enter operation from the end of June and allow the AI to begin the machine learning process. While there the market trend is towards smarter scrubber solutions with condition-based monitoring, Ecospray’s solution takes that a step further.
Di Cecio comments: “So far we didn’t observe any similar full AI managed solution, where key parameters and decisions are supported by relayr’s algorithm.”
Relayr is a newcomer to the maritime sector and still perhaps most widely known for the Wunderbar, a novel IoT starter kit for app developers that resembled a chunky chocolate bar, which helped launch the company back in 2014. Since then, it has continued to expand its end-to-end IoT solutions for a variety of industries.
Ecospray’s Di Santo had previously collaborated with relayr and saw interesting opportunities in a partnership focused on the scrubber market.
“Ecospray gave us the chance to explore this vertical sector that has many similarities with others where we came from,” says Francesco Cattaneo, a senior account executive for relayr, adding that each of the company’s solutions are tailor-made to the partner’s needs, but all of them are starting from relayr’s well-developed knowhow and experience in the industrial market.
Challenged by The Naval Architect to explain what an IIoT control system for scrubbers offers that a conventional ‘unconnected’ system doesn’t, Cattaneo refers to the Equipment as a Service (EaaS) approach, whereby the Smart Scrubber will be leased to the shipowner for a usage fee rather than requiring an outright purchase. As well as offering a lower entry barrier and quick scalability of the system across a fleet, Ecospray plans to make the product available with IMO Warranty, a financial tool which will guarantee the shipowner’s fuel savings should the device fail to perform.
“IIoT is a part of this, together with insurance, financing and business planning. This is unique compared to any other proposal,” says Cattaneo. While it’s too early to put an estimate on potential savings of the Smart Scrubber, Ecospray’s Di Cecio is confident. “With the smart scrubber, we can anticipate extremely interesting economic figures, resulting in significant savings on the opex. Considering the scrubber as-a-service, the target is to drastically alleviate the capex burden for the shipowner.”