SulPure, created by Lausanne-based Daphne Technology, extracts nitrogen and sulphur oxide emissions by passing exhaust fumes through a number of stages. First, a pre-conditioning unit removes particulate matters, reducing carbon monoxide emissions by 99 percent. Next, a purification unit generates reactive species that reduce sulphur emissions by 99.3 percent and nitrogen emissions by 85 percent.
The nitrogen extracted from the process is released harmlessly into the atmosphere, while the sulphur is collected and made into ammonia sulphate – an agricultural fertiliser which can be sold by ship owners to farmers, creating an additional income. "It's exactly the same as you find in normal centralised production of fertiliser," says Mario Michan, the company's CEO. "There's no waste or toxic pollutants going into the ocean or the earth. Quite simply it removes the sulphur and does something beneficial with it."
The process of fitting the SulPure system is also significantly shorter than implementing an open-loop scrubber, taking between four and seven days. It requires only access to the chimney, rather than the engine room, and does not involve water, meaning it does not need to be taken into a dry dock.
Installation cost is around 50 percent lower than typical scrubber systems, adds Michan, and the return on investment is around 12 months as a result of anticipated lower fuel costs. In fact, Daphne Technologies believes that if every vessel affected by the new regulations were fitted with SulPure, the $250 billion cost referenced earlier would fall to around $20 billion.
Daphne Technologies is currently developing a prototype which will be tested and then submitted for certification, but has already lined up a number of pilot agreements with vessels in the Baltic.
Michan believes the new technology will bring about a feasible and relatively low-cost and low-hassle solution to the challenges posed by the new IMO regulations, and do so in a genuinely environmentally friendly way. "Ship owners really care about sustainability and we offer a full closed-loop solution which adheres to IMO 2020, and is financially attractive," he says. "We've put a lot of effort into looking at the end-of-life cycle of our components. That's the only way to create a sustainable fleet, and ultimately a viable industry in the long-term."
In January 2019, Daphne Technologies attracted funding from Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures (SAEV), the corporate investment arm of integrated energy and chemicals company, Saudi Aramco. SAEV invests in early-stage and high-growth companies in markets such as upstream and downstream oil and gas, petrochemicals, renewables, energy efficiency and water.
SAEV's investment in Daphne Technologies is part of a wider commitment to being an active participant in the energy transition by supporting early-stage technology companies that develop solutions reduce greenhouse gas emissions and pollution.