Emission control refers to all measures taken to reduce the amount of pollutants emitted by combustion engines fueled by fossil energy sources. The term is most widely used to describe (passenger or transport) vehicle emissions control, but can also refer to industrial, aviation or marine emissions. Most emission control legislation and technology is focused on reducing or eliminating the release of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur oxide (SOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs, like formaldehyde and benzene) into the air and atmosphere.
Why is emission control necessary?
The pollutants emitted by any internal combustion engine powered by a hydrocarbon fuel source are potential health hazards and contribute to climate change. When air pollution in the shape of smog was first identified as a threat to public health in the mid-20th century, the discovery led to the earliest emission control regulations. The more long-term effects of pollution and its contribution to global warming also became a serious concern, prompting more coordinated, international action and the development of sophisticated emission control systems to meet increased emission standards.
What are the most common emission control systems?
The most efficient way to eliminate emissions is to do away with their source. However, until the energy transition is fully accomplished and hydrocarbon combustion is no longer a global energy source, several methods can help control the amount of pollutants that are released into the air through exhaust gas. Their usefulness depends on the engine, fuel system and the resulting pollutants, as well as the desired outcome. Particulate filters are used to remove particulate matter from exhaust, catalytic converters turn the most toxic pollutants into less harmful chemicals (some of which are still greenhouse gases (GHGs)), selective non-catalytic reduction reduces nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from power plants, chemical absorption and adsorption can capture CO2. Each control method has advantages and disadvantages and often several technologies are employed and combined to achieve the cleanest result.
Global GHG emissions in 2030 need to be approximately 25% and 55% lower than in 2017 to put the world on a least-cost pathway to limiting global warming to 2°C and 1.5°C respectively.
Emissions control for every phase of the energy transition
MAN Energy Solutions offers a wide range of emission control technologies for every stage of the energy transition. At present, the world economy still runs largely on hydrocarbon fuels and produces unsustainable volumes of emissions that need to be reduced swiftly and drastically. Converting power stations, marine and industrial engines to natural gas, hybrid or dual-fuel power instantly reduces emissions, while exhaust after-treatment systems further eliminate harmful pollutants. In the mid-term, smart systems that combine renewable energy, efficient storage solutions and combustion engines can achieve the optimal balance of low-emission energy and security of supply. In the long run, future technologies like Power-to-X help to create a highly efficient cycle of fully renewable and carbon-neutral energy supply.
Emissions control for the marine shipping sector
The shipping industry, long ignored by international climate agreements, is increasingly under pressure to improve its emission levels. The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Engine Regulations and the Energy Efficiency Design Index (EEDI) for new ships set international limits and guidelines in international waters. In addition, a variety of Emission Control Areas (ECA) define even stricter regional limits, relating to sulfur emissions in particular. To minimize the carbon footprint of fleets, vessels are being updated to stay in line with or even ahead of ever-stricter legislation as it emerges. Solutions include converting engines to run on alternative fuels, measures to optimize fuel efficiency, after-treatment, exhaust scrubbers and filters.
A big step towards reducing emissions by 2050
One best practice example of effective emissions is already sailing the seven seas – or the North and Baltic Seas, to be precise. Wes Amelie, a modern container carrier, frequents highly regulated shipping routes. To meet the high environmental standards and strict emission limits in the region, she was converted from heavy fuel oil to low-emission gas by MAN Energy Solutions.