Norway’s heavyweights on board with NOx reduction revolution

Publish date: September 10, 2007

Prompted by a strategic cooperation with Bellona, Norway’s fertiliser producer Yara has joined forces with compatriot shipping group Wilhelm Wilhelmsen in a new venture that would offer a complete solution to the problem of nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from ships. Norway is bound by international obligations to cut its NOx emissions down by 30 percent by 2010, but unless specific efforts are undertaken to target the issue, the country will be far from fulfilling its pledge.

The new joint venture, called Yarwil, was presented by Yara International and Wilhelm Wilhelmsen on August 28th. Wilhelmsen is one of the largest groups operating on the Norwegian shipping and maritime services market, while Yara is Europe’s leading producer of environmental products used for NOx-treatment.

NOx is a generic term used to describe mono-nitrogen oxides – NO and NO2 – that are formed through combustion in power stations, motors, waste incineration plants and for other production purposes, and that are detrimental to human health and the environment.

Yara’s internationally supplied products are already credited with removing more NOx than is currently estimated as Norway’s total emissions of these gases. By creating a joint enterprise with Wilhelmsen, Yara will enhance its cooperation with the shipping sector – an industry responsible for increasing NOx emissions, but also ripe with good opportunities to reduce the pollution.

The solutions to rely on
”Thanks to this (effort), the use of catalytic technology on vessels can take a big and important step toward a large-scale production and, by extension, to reduced costs and provide more reliable solutions,” said Bellona’s adviser on environmental technologies, Konrad Pütz.

“International shipping is a poorly regulated industry where available environmental technologies are only applied to a limited degree. Therefore, both a commitment within the industry and a long-term and predictable use of incentives and regulatory instruments by Norwegian and international authorities are needed. Only in this way can we cut down NOx emissions from ships,” added Pütz.

In his opinion, by joining their forces, these two globally recognised heavyweights now have all the prerequisites for a successful delivery of an efficient NOx treatment technology.

A unique partnership
Yara is the world’s biggest manufacturer of chemical fertilisers and its production facility in Porsgrunn is where the largest local-scale pollution occurs in Norway. Its energy consumption reaches a level of 10 terawatt-hours on a yearly basis and its annual carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are estimated at some two million tonnes.

But Yara supplies not just fertilisers and pollution, but technological solutions as well: Among other innovations, it uses urea – a highly soluble, crystalline solid found in bodily fluids of mammals and also produced synthetically. Urea is a by-product generated during the production of fertilisers and it is used by Yara to treat NOx emissions from diesel-powered vehicles.

The cooperation agreement that Yara concluded with Bellona in 2005 was what prompted the chemical giant to start working together with the shipping operator Wilhelm Wilhelmsen – another partner of Bellona’s – to look for opportunities to translate the successful use of the urea technology into the maritime sector.

“Bellona has long worked to reduce the harmful emissions in shipping and we are very glad to have lent a hand to bring this partnership project about,” said Bellona’s Pütz.

Polluting at a pretty penny

According to the Norwegian Pollution Control Authority, Norway’s shipping industry stood accountable for 37 percent of all of the country’s NOx emissions in 2005. NOx pollution in Europe is regulated by the so-called Gothenburg protocol, signed in the Swedish town of Gothenburg in 1999. By inking this agreement, Norway pledged to reduce its yearly emissions of NOx to a level of 156,000 tonnes by 2010.

At the same time, in 2006 alone the country’s NOx pollution level was already 25 percent higher than the promised threshold. As part of the solution, the Norwegian government has introduced a so-called NOx levy of NOK 15 ($2.61) per one kilogram of NOx. However, many players on the shipping market as well as Bellona have argued that in and of itself, the NOx duty will not be enough to fulfil the international obligations pledged by Norway.

The pollution-free technology
Yara’s urea technology, now adjusted for envisioned use on ships, will be based on a concept that a special quality of the urea solution will be added to the hot exhaust fumes discharged by ships’ engines and then decompose to produce ammonia – which, in turn, will react with NOx from the exhaust in a catalytic converter. The end result is pure water and nitrogen.

Nitrogen will then be dissolved in the atmosphere, where it creates no risk of pollution. Yara has already been successfully using this technology in diesel-based automobiles and together with Wilhelm Wilhelmsen, will now apply the innovation on board of maritime transport as well.

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