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Chaotic Motion Device Aims for Scalability, Portability

The world is full of “chaotic motion,” in other words, continuous but non-uniform types of physical excitation that are nevertheless pervasive and commonplace. Ocean waves are a naturally occurring example. So is the movement of people as they walk or run in everyday life. What almost all have in common is that they represent a nearly limitless source of energy if only a means could be found to convert them into a reliable form of electric power generation.

Methods of doing so have long been a focus of engineering research. A UK-based company has come up with something different: a single type of device that could be scaled to provide useful, usable power from a few watts to hundreds of kilowatts depending on the scale of the motion source.


The company is WITT Energy based in Plymouth in South West England and founded by a husband and wife team, Martin and Mairi Wickett. Their aim was to find a means of converting bi-directional movement to rotation. Their initial idea has now been embodied into the design for a device that goes by the name Whatever Input to Torsion Transfer (WITT). It is claimed to be one of the first ever practicable pieces of equipment with the potential to translate multiple degrees of motion – up, down, backwards, forwards and rotation about an axis – into a single output able to drive a generator to produce electricity. (Watch a video of the generator in action.)

The basic principle involves the use of pendulums that react to external movement. These drive a flywheel and gearbox that in turn drive a conventional generator. The potential benefits could be considerable.

The first is its potential scalability from a wearable device to something that could be mounted in a boat to exploit its pitching and rolling motions. Second, all of the essential working parts can be sealed inside a housing pierced only by the wires carrying the electric current, thereby making it resilient to damage from external forces. Another is that it could be able to produce power across a wide range of excitation – a marine device, for example, should continue to operate in storm conditions. It also would be flexible in operation and could be used to charge batteries if there was no immediate need for power or if the source of motion was intermittent.

The company’s commercial director Nicholas Gill says that the device has already won at least one award for innovation – the 2013 Gulfstream Navigator Award worth $100,000 made by the Ocean Exchange organization, an international venture that seeks to recognize environmentally friendly innovation with a potential for global application. He says the device is also attracting interest from the German conglomerate Schaeffler, which Gill says has agreed to work with WITT to help refine the concept. Both the Indian and U.S. defense departments also have expressed interest, he says.

The defense departments’ interest has been stimulated in part by the device’s potential to be built into a soldier’s backpack. Gill says this would enable the device to provide a means of constantly recharging the batteries used to power electronic equipment that military personnel now carry. He says that a WITT device weighing two pounds and capable of generating 10W of power could feasibly be developed and would be sufficient to meet military applications.

A prototype of such a device has been tested and, Gill says, has achieved a “peak power” output of 5W. Further lightweighting of almost all its component parts could help boost power output towards that target figure. Moreover, Gill says that the company could exploit the need for the pendulums to retain some weight by making them incorporate batteries, which would contribute “net zero weight” to the device.

That possible application is likely to be beaten into real use by a larger version of the concept that is capable of generating as much as 200W. WITT Energy is developing that device in cooperation with UK precision engineering operation Gibbs Gears. Gill says that this device is intended for marine use although the company has also recognized that fixed floating objects such as marker buoys present a potential market. A prototype is scheduled to appear by “the third quarter of 2016” with a market launch possibly in 2017, he says.

Gill says that by late 2015 the company will launch a crowdsourcing push that aims to bring in at least $1.1-4.5 million.

Transport firms seek funding to upgrade bus fleets, switch to cleaner fuel in ferries

Cheung Chi-fai, SCMP

Franchised bus and ferry operators have publicly sought government financial assistance to help them upgrade their fleets and switch to cleaner fuels if they are required to do so. The operators say they are seeking the unspecified help on the assumption that they will not be able to pass on the cost of improvements to the public through higher fares.

New World First Ferry – now testing ultra-low-sulphur diesel on three boats – said it could not keep using the fuel because it was too expensive.

“We will be unable to carry on after the end of the trial unless the government helps,” assistant general manger David Wong Yui-cheong told the Legislative Council’s environmental affairs panel yesterday.

The ferry operator’s sister company, New World First Bus, also said a subsidy would be needed if it was told to upgrade its diesel bus fleet ahead of schedule.

“The assumption is that we would not pass on the additional cost to the passengers by raising fares, and therefore a financial subsidy is necessary,” deputy head of corporate communications Elaine Chan Yin-ling said. It would be wasteful to phase out older buses before the end of their supposed life cycle, usually up to 18 years, she said.

In its recent air-quality review, the Environment Bureau estimated a 15 per cent fare rise would be needed to replace by 2014 about 4,500 franchised buses that went into service before Euro II emission standards were introduced in 1996 and 1998.

Fume-belching diesel buses are blamed for much of the roadside air pollution that persists despite efforts to clean up the environment.
Kowloon Motor Bus operations director Tim Ip Chung-tim said the bus-replacement programme was a complicated one that was also governed by manufacturers’ ability to supply vehicles. He also warned of the affect on finances and operations.

Secretary for the Environment Edward Yau Tang-wah said all parties in the community – individuals, government and businesses – would have to pay for better air quality. But he did not say whether the government had any plans to help bus companies upgrade their fleets.
The review proposed 19 measures to meet recommended new air-quality objectives, which have not been updated since 1987.
Representatives of more than 30 organisations attended yesterday’s panel meeting to offer their views on the review.

The prevalent view among non-business delegates was that tighter targets should be adopted and the proposed measures implemented as quickly as possible. A public forum will be held on Saturday to gauge public views on the review.

Meanwhile, WWF Hong Kong published its “Climate Policy Address” for Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen’s reference. It also urged Hong Kong to set a carbon emissions target of 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Cruise Ships To Get On-shore Power Supply

Paggie Leung, SCMP – Jun 12, 2009

The planned terminal for cruise liners at Kai Tak will be one of just a few in the world to offer on-shore power supply to ships – an environmentally friendly alternative to keeping the vessels’ engines running.

“Previously when a cruise liner anchored at a terminal, its electricity generator had to keep running, so there would be some emissions [of pollutants such as] carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide,” CLP Power director Paul Poon Wai-yin said yesterday after the topping-out ceremony for the first electricity substation at the Kai Tak site.

“But with the on-shore supply system, liners get electricity on shore and can switch off the generators so that there will be no emissions … in the city centre,” he said.

Cruise liners mainly used diesel to generate electricity, Mr Poon said, while the power company used more environmentally friendly resources – apart from coal – such as natural gas and nuclear power.

Another advantage of the on-shore system was its reliability. Five power substations will be built at Kai Tak. Apart from the cruise terminal, the facilities will also supply energy to nearby government offices, the Sha Tin-to-Central MTR link, the district cooling system, and residential and commercial projects.

The first substation is expected to be commissioned in mid-2012.

Should A Wind Farm Be Built Off Sai Kung?

SCMP – Jun 12, 2009

The Association for Geoconservation is extremely disappointed that the environmental impact assessment, as usual, has not seriously considered the geological impact of the proposed offshore wind farm in Hong Kong’s southeastern waters. We strongly oppose the project because it will damage our geological heritage and kill the Hong Kong geopark.

It is proposed that the wind farm should be 9km east of Clearwater Bay peninsula, 5km east of [East] Ninepin Island and 3km south of Basalt Island- which coincides with the boundary of the proposed geopark. The seabed of this area is home to invaluable geological heritage – the world’s largest acidic hexagonal columnar rocks.

At present, there is nowhere else with a coverage of over 100km and an average diameter of 1.2 metres. It is unique. The laying of foundation works, undersea electrical cables and turbines, and the onshore activities and grid connections, would cause serious damage. The appearance of up to 67 135-metre-high turbines arranged in a grid and the offshore transformer platform would affect the coastal features.

This is the only geological site among our eight geo sites that remains intact, with no human interference and construction. The construction of the wind farm would definitely undermine the geopark’s global significance.

Low efficiency is another factor to consider. Annually, the wind-farm project would provide only 1 per cent of Hong Kong’s electricity. So how can anyone justify pursuing such a project? The association supports efforts to improve air quality and to achieve the renewable energy targets. But this should not be done by damaging geological heritage.

Cindy Choi Mo-ching, Association for Geoconservation

The Port of Hong Kong – download the full report here.

Case Study: Hong Kong

The Port of Hong Kong has been a leading Asian seaport for more than a century and a top container port for more than three decades. Between 2001 and 2006, Hong Kong container throughput increased by 32 percent from 17.8 million to 23.5 million TEUs. Containerized cargo in Hong Kong now represents about 74 percent of Hong Kong’s total cargo throughput. In 2006, Hong Kong was the second largest container port in the world, although it is likely that it was surpassed by Shanghai in 2008. The port is served by 80 international shipping lines with over 450 container liner services per week to over 500 destinations worldwide. The port is managed by the Marine Department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR), the local government for the city.

Hong Kong is located in the Pearl River Delta, which includes other cities and container ports, including the Port of Shenzhen, the world’s fourth largest container port. Container traffic at Shenzhen has also steadily risen recently, to 18.5 million TEUs in 2006 compared with 5.0 million TEUs in 2001. Together, in 2006, the Hong Kong and Shenzhen ports accounted for 9.5 percent of global container volume, making the Pearl River Delta the largest container handling region in the world. Cargo throughput is expected to grow. A study commissioned by the Hong Kong Transport and Housing Bureau estimates that, by 2030, Hong Kong will handle between 39 and 43 million TEUs.

Air quality in the Hong Kong is generally poor and levels remain much higher than the World Health Organization’s air quality guidelines. Since 1990, emissions of all air pollutants have risen dramatically.

Sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides doubled and particulate matter showed over a 90 percent gain. In 2006, Civic Exchange, a nonprofit public policy research organization based in Hong Kong, published a report, Marine Emission Reduction Options for Hong Kong and the Pearl River Delta Region, which found that local vehicle and marine emissions are the dominant source of air pollution in Hong Kong during prevailing wind conditions that exist about one-third of the year.

Governments and other stakeholders in the maritime sector have already implemented some positive measures including the promotion of low sulfur fuel use by marine vessels and port vehicles, the use of electricity to power port machinery and the reduction of fuel consumption through efficiency measures. These measures in themselves have not been sufficient to reduce port emissions on a scale necessary to protect public health, but pressure to take more ambitious action is growing.

In February and March 2008, Civic Exchange sponsored two workshops for stakeholders involved in port environmental issues. The working group for the workshop included four stakeholder groups: oceangoing vessel operators, port operators, local craft harbor operators and land vessel operators involved in port activities. The stakeholder groups all endorsed government incentives to encourage green technologies and to pay the incremental cost of ultra low sulfur diesel fuel compared to lower grade conventional fuels. They also supported increased research and development of advanced technologies for marine applications, pursuit of shore power use by berthed ships and the creation of a low emission area subject to IMO regulations.

The recommendations of the working group were used by Civic Exchange in the development of its July 2008 report, Green Harbours: Hong and Shenzhen — Reducing Marine and Port Related Pollution. The report’s five key recommendations are as follows:

• In the short term: Foster greater regional collaboration across borders, port and marine sectors
• In the medium term: Develop a comprehensive green ports strategy and related policy measures to create the regulatory and planning framework for implementing green port policies
• Develop cleaner fuels initiatives to encourage the use and availability of cleaner fuels
• Expand training programs for industry employees to encourage proper equipment operation to ensure efficient operation
• Conduct additional port related research to identify new green port projects suitable for Hong Kong

Hong Kong is responding to the increased recognition of the role of port activities in the city’s environmental problems. In June 2008, Hong Kong ratified the MARPOL Annex VI marine fuel quality standards as a Special Administrative Region of China recognized at the IMO separately from the national government in Beijing, which had already ratified the agreement. It plans to go beyond the new IMO regulations by applying fuel quality standards to local shipping as well as international commerce
regulated by the IMO.

Emissions from ships in Hong Kong harbor are regulated by the Marine Department. Ships in the harbor now use 5,000 ppm sulfur fuel. The ferry system will start running a trial using 50 ppm sulfur fuel early next year. Assuming the results are positive, political leaders seem committed to continue its use in ferries, but not to expand it to other craft without the cooperation of other cities in the Pearl River Delta mooring local marine craft.

The Hong Kong Shipowners Association (HKSOA) was very active during the few years of debate before the MARPOL Annex VI Amendments were adopted in October 2008, says Arthur Bowring, Managing Director of the group. The HKSOA represents more than 100 shipping companies that own more than 1,100 ships. “Environment is our biggest single challenge,” adds Bowring, referring to shipowners.

The Environmental Protection Department (EPD) is the chief air pollution regulatory agency in Hong Kong for landside emission sources, including all types of motorized vehicles. “Marine emissions are a new issue for us,” notes W.C. Mok, Principal Environmental Protection Officer.206 There are currently no regulatory standards that apply to offroad cargo handling equipment at ports. Onroad trucks fueling in Hong Kong are required to buy diesel fuel containing only 10 ppm sulfur, but when refueling takes place across the border with mainland China, they are subject only to a 500 ppm sulfur cap. Since most trucks delivering containers to Hong Kong pick up their cargo at mainland factories, most diesel fuel burned in Hong Kong is the higher sulfur content grade.

The 10 ppm fuel is much more expensive, even with an exemption from sales taxes offered by Hong Kong. The EPD is currently studying the technical feasibility of using compressed or liquefied natural gas in heavy duty vehicles. It will examine the results in 2009. The EPD is also studying options to reduce air pollution from cargo handling equipment at container ports.

As government agencies assess regulatory options, several private container terminal operators are moving ahead to deploy hybrid electric rubber tire gantries (RTGs). Seventeen hybrid electric RTGs were deployed at Container Terminal 4 owned by Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) in 2008. They are the first step in a $18 million (U.S. dollars) program to equip 81 RTGs with hybrid electric drivetrains, about 70 percent of HITs total fleet. The hybrid RTGs are fitted with lithium ion batteries that provide power to help lift containers. The batteries are recharged by regenerative braking energy generated during the lowering of containers and from a generator powered by the onboard diesel engine.

In October 2008, Modern Terminals Ltd. signed a contract with Kawatoyo Electric Company Ltd., the sole agent for Yaskawa Group Port Crane System, to convert 44 RTGs with hybrid electric drivetrains at its terminal in Hong Kong by mid-2009. The drivetrains are being developed by Yaskawa Electric Corporation. They use ultracapacitors as the onboard energy storage technology.

The Modern Terminals Da Chen Bay Terminal 1 at Shenzhen already uses hybrid electric RTGs. The terminal is the first to convert its entire RTG fleet to hybrid electric drivetrains. Modern Terminals associate company, Taicang International Container Terminal, is currently converting its fleet at the Port of Shanghai to hybrid electric RTGs.

In other programs at Shenzhen, Shekou Container Terminal (SCT) is installing auxiliary generators onboard its entire fleet of 78 RTGs by the end of 2010 at the port of Shekou. It is also installing rail mounted gantry cranes (RMGs), which are quieter, last longer, and are 20 percent more efficient than conventional RTGs. By the end of 2008, SCT plans to install 16 RMGs. Another initiative is studying the use of using hybrid technology or LNG yard tractors.

Yantian International Container Terminals (YICT) is the largest port in Shenzhen, handling 10 million TEUs in 2007. YICT has converted 12 of its 200 RTGs from conventional to hybrid electric drivetrains, and plans to switch another 60. The RTGs are equipped with supercapacitors, which are yielding a 25 percent energy savings by capturing and reusing energy released as containers are lowered to the ground. Anticipating shoreside power, YICT has started installing infrastructure works and is studying power converter technology before implementing this new technology. It is also promoting rail transportation from the port on its dedicated rail line. Each train can transport 50 containers in one journey, making them more efficient and cleaner than trucks.

Container Shipping Ports Clean Alternative Fuels Gains

New Air Pollution Study Reports Clean Alternative Fuels Gains at Top U.S. and International Container Shipping Ports

BOULDER, Colo., Feb 25, 2009 (BUSINESS WIRE) — U.S. and international container shipping ports are among the world’s biggest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, because of their reliance on diesel fuel for goods movement. But progress toward reducing harmful emissions by switching to clean alternative fuels is gaining momentum worldwide, according to a new research study, “Container Ports and Air Pollution,” published by Energy Futures, Inc. The study found that natural gas is currently the leading alternative fuel for goods movement at U.S. container ports, while hybrid electric vehicles are gaining popularity in Asia.

The 77-page report presents findings from a 10-month-long study that included on-site visits to evaluate air pollution control efforts at top container ports in the U.S., Europe and Asia. The new Energy Futures study updates and expands on a report titled “U.S. Container Ports and Air Pollution: A Perfect Storm,” which was published in February, 2008. That study identified environmental protection alternative fuel programs at each of the Top 10 U.S. container ports, including their use of natural gas, biodiesel or hybrid electric vehicles.

James S. Cannon, President, Energy Futures. Inc., said, “A key premise of our studies of air pollution in the container shipping industry is that alternative fuels offer viable options for use in goods movement operations to replace polluting fuels that are derived from oil. These clean-burning fuels are known to work well in port goods movement, and there is great promise that they can be more widely used in the shipping supply chain.” Mr. Cannon unveiled the new report to an international audience in a speech today at the GreenPorts 2009 Conference in Naples, Italy.

Overall, the new Energy Futures report is a “call to action” that asks decision makers to increase alternative fuel use to protect public health and environmental quality in port communities when they formulate policies designed to maintain port growth.

Included in the new report are updated profiles that showcase air pollution control efforts at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, CA; the Port of New York and New Jersey; the Port of Savannah, GA; the Port of Oakland, CA; the Port of Hampton Roads, VA; the Port of Seattle, WA; the Port of Tacoma, WA; the Port of Houston, TX, and the Port of Charleston, SC. Case studies at the Port of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the Port of Hong Kong are also included.

The research clearly shows that 2008 was the busiest year yet for innovative new environmental efforts, particularly at the top U.S. container ports. Many ports are taking action to reduce the pollution they generate through alternative fuel and advanced technology programs. In 2008, for example, regional truck programs were launched at the three California ports — Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland — that are expected to deploy thousands of natural gas-powered goods movement trucks during the next few years.

Cannon explained that the U.S. is the largest importer of containerized goods, yet the millions of containers handled at U.S. ports annually comprise only about 10 percent of the global container trade. The study documents significant progress during 2008 in environmental programs affecting international goods movement. Most importantly, the London-based International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted amendments to regulations governing air pollution from ships.

The IMO revisions call for a progressive reduction in the global sulfur cap on bunkerfuel, from the current limit of 45,000 parts per million to 5,000 parts per million. “The bunkerfuel that powers most ships is the dregs of oil refining,” Cannon said. Typically, container ships burn bunkerfuel when idle in port, to provide for their electrical needs.

“Switching entirely from bunkerfuel to natural gas to power container ships would significantly lower emissions,” he said. “Particulate matter pollution has been shown to decline 70 percent, while nitrogen oxides fall 72 percent and sulfur dioxide emissions are virtually eliminated when bunkerfuel is replaced by natural gas.”

Europe’s largest container port, located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, manages an extensive array of programs designed to reduce air pollution from container handling. For example, the port is studying the use of natural gas as a fuel for hundreds of barges that daily carry containers to inland destinations.

In Asia, the study’s review of port clean-up efforts included Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai. Onsite Energy Futures researchers found several port programs involving the use of alternative fuels and advanced propulsion technologies. Various applications of electrical energy are the current alternatives of choice in the region.

“Air Pollution and Container Ports” is available for downloading at no charge at

About Energy Futures, Inc.

Founded in 1979 to study energy and related environmental issues in the transportation sector, Energy Futures publishes the quarterly international journal “The Clean Fuels and Electric Vehicles Report,” and the bimonthly newsletter “Hybrid Vehicles.” James S. Cannon, President of Energy Futures, has studied alternative transportation fuels since 1986 and is the author or editor of six books on the topic, more than a dozen reports and over 50 professional papers. His most recent book, “Reducing Climate Impacts in the Transportation Sector,” was published in October 2008. He also researched and wrote the 2008 report, “U.S. Container Ports and Air Pollution: A Perfect Storm.”

SOURCE: Energy Futures, Inc.

Asia-Pacific: Shipping – Emissions Reductions All At Sea

Paul French, Ethical Corporation – 5 Dec 08

Ships carry most of the world’s consumer goods, but at huge cost to the environment and human health

The Shinyo Ocean is 354 metres long, 61 metres wide and (depending how full it is) about 20 metres high. It is technically a Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) – an oil tanker. It’s certainly a big boat.

We’re carrying 180,000 tonnes of oil from Fujarah in the United Arab Emirates to the port of Mailiao, on Taiwan’s coast, facing directly across the Taiwan strait towards mainland China. The oil is all being delivered to one of Taiwan’s largest companies, Formosa Plastics Group.

This moving island is an expensive piece of property – the boat alone is worth $130m, while even with falling oil prices we are carrying a cargo worth over $60m. In addition, we need 62 tonnes of bunker fuel a day to power the ship. At $800 a tonne that means we’re spending nearly $50,000 a day to keep moving. Factor in the costs of all the lubricants, fresh water and food we need aboard and you start to see how expensive it is to move the “black gold” around the world.

We are miles out at sea but we are far from alone. In a week on the South China Sea we experience only a few hours when there is not another large ship – carrying either containers, gas or oil – within sight.

Increasingly, the world’s shipping fleet is moving eastwards as the manufacturing powerhouses of east Asia spew out everything from T-shirts to camcorders, requiring vast amounts of oil to make them.

Straight and narrow

Currently 80% of commercial sea traffic passes through the Malacca straits, the main route from west to east, between Malaysia and Indonesia towards Singapore. You soon realise that you are just one vessel in a long line of ships heading into east Asia with oil and other raw materials on an ocean highway while container ships of finished goods head in the opposite direction to the waiting markets of the west. It’s a similar story across the Pacific from east Asia to the ports of North America’s west coast.

Taiwan, where we’re headed, is an island of beautiful scenery and stunning coastlines but precious little in the way of oil reserves. Yet it is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of consumer electronics, machinery and chemicals – it’s a safe bet that in your house are a bunch of products marked Made in Taiwan. But with total oil production of about 8,400 barrels per day, the island needs a staggering 1 million barrels to keep its factories running. Taiwan is relies on ships like the Shinyo Ocean making regular deliveries.

For Taiwan, sea delivery of oil is really the only option – as an island, pipelines are problematic, a situation not helped by the simmering disputes between Taipei and Beijing that regularly flare up.

Taiwan is hardly alone in requiring a steady flow of oil tankers to call at its ports. Australia, New Zealand, mainland China and a host of other industrial nations – including the US and the UK – also rely largely on this sea traffic. Yet in comparison with road, rail and plane transport, there has been little discussion of the effects, adverse or otherwise, of this vast seaborne trade on the environment. While aviation has been the focus of environmentalists’ dissent of late, there is an argument that shipping actually is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than airlines.

Here’s the problem. In terms of emissions per kilometre, large ships like the Shinyo Ocean are the greenest of transport options. Ships emit roughly – varying slightly according to their size – 15g CO2 per km, while airfreight emits a whopping 540g/km. However, depending how you make the final calculations, shipping emits more than airfreight as the reality is that ships carry about 90% of world trade.

For the vast majority of products, moving them by plane is a luxury at best and an impossibility in most cases. There’s not much alternative – oil, coal, metals and so on are never going to be moved by air. There’s no other way to get all that iron ore from western Australia to China except by boat.

So if we’re not going to see the demise of these giant ships, can we at least make them cleaner?

The Shinyo Ocean’s main problem is the bunker fuel that powers its massive engines. Just about every vessel at sea uses bunker fuel, often also euphemistically termed residual fuel. Arthur Bowring, managing director of the Hong Kong Shipowners Association, says bunker fuel is “the end of the refining cycle, the residue; one step up from the asphalt you put on roads”.

At present bunker fuel is sold to shipowners at a discount of close to $20 on the barrel. Refiners believe this is a win-win situation: owners get cheap fuel and oil majors get rid of their rubbish. But bunker fuel has a high sulphur content, about 2.7% on average, and is just plain dirty. Sulphur dioxides emitted when it burns contribute to climate change and air pollution that harms human health.

According to a peer-reviewed scientific study submitted to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), air pollution emitted by international shipping will be responsible for 84,000 premature deaths worldwide by 2012 if no measures are taken to cap the sulphur content of bunker fuel. The study – published in the December 2007 edition of the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Environmental Science and Technology – found that if the shipping industry could limit sulphur content to 0.5% by 2012, 50,000 of these premature deaths would be prevented.

This will not happen. As with all other forms of business the global shipping trade has those who want to proactively do something about their emissions and those less keen, who see it as an additional cost that will hit their margins.

Sulphur caps

The Hong Kong Shipowners Association – which represents about 8% of the total global fleet – is a progressive voice within the industry, as is the international independent tanker owner’s organisation, Intertanko. They are proposing global sulphur caps at various levels of about 1%.

Ultimately the less keen can be brought into line through the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, known as Marpol, and the IMO. Shipping is a tough and competitive business and clearly not all shipowners want to move to clean fuel. Making that shift would, incidentally, cut the need for purifiers, heating of fuel tanks, sludge control and emission abatement equipment, and the disposal of residues. Ultimately it would lead to the development of more efficient engines and more sophisticated emission reduction systems. But this is long-term thinking and short-term thinkers simply point to the fact that, depending on oil prices, fuel costs could rise by as much as $200 to $250 a tonne, or 25%-30%.

International agreements combined with lobbying could conceivably force change across the whole industry. But a major stumbling block would be the refiners. Quite simply, they are making a good profit from an otherwise generally unsellable residual product. If shipping did truly go green, what would they do with all the residual fuel? Bowring in Hong Kong says that’s their problem. Speaking for Hong Kong shipowners he declares: “We want regulations on this issue. We don’t want to leave it to the owners as it is very expensive to switch.”

If Bowring and the Hong Kong shipowners make the switch, that will have a major effect on global shipping. Hong Kong is one of the most important shipping centres in the world – a compact city that knows how bad emissions from ships can be. In Hong Kong, ships offload containers close to the city centre and shipping accounts for a high proportion of all CO2 emissions on smoggy Hong Kong Island.

If responsible shipowners start to take a lead, backed up by international agreements, then the global shipping fleet can seriously reduce its total emissions. With the vast majority of the world’s trade moving at some point by ship this would have a major impact on tackling climate change, and saving lives.

Gas Plan For Sokos Ditched By CLP Firm Looks To Invest In Mainland LNG Plant

Denise Tsang, SCMP – Sep 12, 2008

CLP Power (SEHK: 0002) has abandoned its controversial HK$10 billion plan to build a liquefied natural gas plant on the Soko Islands off Lantau.

The power company will instead look to invest in an LNG processing plant on the mainland.

“The Sokos project is stopped,” CLP’s commercial director Richard Lancaster told the South China Morning Post (SEHK: 0583, announcements, news) yesterday.

To ensure a secure supply of the clean fuel, CLP wanted to invest in either a regasification plant planned by PetroChina (SEHK: 0857, announcements, news) in Dachen Bay, Shekou , or one planned by China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC (SEHK: 0883)) in Zhuhai , Mr Lancaster said.

It would also negotiate on sourcing gas from CNOOC’s gas fields in the South China Sea and from PetroChina’s planned 4,800km pipeline from Turkmenistan via Kazakhstan to Shenzhen, he said.

CLP had said the LNG project – which involved building a storage and regasification plant on South Soko Island and a pipeline to carry the fuel to the Black Point power station at Tuen Mun – was needed because reserves at CNOOC’s Yacheng gas field, off Hainan , were far less than expected and would run out soon after 2011 at the current usage rate of 2.5 billion cubic metres a year.

Opponents challenged the plan over fears it would damage an environmentally sensitive marine area and lead to higher electricity bills.

The fate of the project was thrown into doubt when Hong Kong and Beijing struck an energy pact last month to guarantee supply to the city for another 20 years, with CNOOC saying that with further drilling, Yacheng, could supply at least 2 billion cubic metres a year.

“We concur with the [Hong Kong] government view that [the LNG plant] is not needed after a memorandum of understanding on energy supply to Hong Kong was signed,” Mr Lancaster said.

The accord, which includes nuclear power supply, ensures the availability of cleaner fuel for electricity generation – and better air quality – and may reduce pressure to raise power tariffs.

Green groups last night hailed the CLP decision.

Angus Wong Chun-yin, of Friends of the Earth, said: “Although using natural gas is good for the environment, building a liquefied natural gas plant on the Soko Islands could have harmed the environment more.”

He said the project would certainly have destroyed an important habitat of the Chinese white dolphin.

But Mr Wong said more needed to be done to switch to clean fuel.

“Dropping the Soko Islands project should not be the end of the story. The Hong Kong government should press harder to require power companies to use more natural gas to generate power.”

Natural gas and nuclear power each account for about 20 per cent of CLP’s fuel mix, with coal making up 60 per cent.

A government source described CLP’s decision as “realistic and clever”. The source said the Environment Bureau would facilitate talks between CLP and the mainland authorities and companies concerned.

Mr Lancaster said CLP would go ahead with a 20-year gas purchase agreement with British-based BG. A preliminary agreement for the gas, originally intended to supply the Sokos plant, was signed in June.

The BG deal would fill a supply shortfall, he said. The Black Power plant could consume 3.4 billion cubic metres of gas per year, while CNOOC would supply 2 billion cubic metres and PetroChina 1 billion cubic metres annually by 2013.