How does a closed-loop scrubber work?

A closed-loop scrubber is an exhaust gas cleaning system (EGCS) that controls air pollution on a vessel. This method is crucial to comply with the strict IMO 2020 sulfur cap as it reduces sulfur oxides (SOx) emissions from marine exhaust gas streams by 98%. However, a closed-loop scrubber consists of various elements and complex processes. Let us be more detailed about how a closed-loop scrubber works.

When operating the ship’s engine, the auxiliary engine or boiler generates exhaust caused by combustion processes. Before the shipping industry focused on desulfurization, the exhaust gas went directly into the atmosphere, which caused acid rain, harming people, wildlife, and the planet. Today, the exhaust gas can be cleaned with an exhaust gas cleaning system employing unique scrubber technology, delivering 98% removal of sulfur. This ensures a more sustainable operation and essentially compliance with the IMO 2020 sulfur cap by lowering SOx emissions. The scrubbers reduce SOx emissions from 3.5% to less than 0.1%, allowing ships to operate within the ECA.

There are three types of scrubbers; open-loop, closed-loop, and hybrid. Read more about them and how they differ here.

Closed-Loop Scrubber

The exhaust gas streams move through a scrubber tower in a closed-loop scrubber. The exhaust gas intake is always at the bottom of the scrubber tower as this design ensures that the SOx emissions in the exhaust gas stream pass through the scrubbing liquid to deliver the most thorough scrubbing. The exhaust gas is scrubbed with a watery substance utilizing many nozzles inside the scrubber tower. A closed-loop scrubber typically employs seawater with added alkalies such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH), also known as caustic soda, or magnesium hydroxide (MgOH) to scrub the exhaust gases. Yet, a closed-loop scrubber can also utilize seawater. The many nozzles ensure that the alkaline-dosed seawater is distributed effectively. By scrubbing the exhaust gas, 98 % of sulfur is removed from the exhaust gases. The SOx are turned into sulfates such as Na2SO4, which are harmless to the environment. In addition, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter are also reduced. Learn more about what a scrubber removes here.

Closed Loop Scrubber Illustration Liqtech Water
Closed-Loop Scrubber Process

Closed-Loop Scrubber Process

At the top of the scrubber tower, a continuous emission monitoring system (CEMS) is placed to monitor the emission outlet concerning the IMO 2020 sulfur limit to ensure constant compliance. The cleaned exhaust gas stream can pass through an inlet at the top of the closed-loop scrubber.

The wash water will move downstream to the process tank. Through automatic monitoring and control, alkali is automatically dosed directly into the process tank to maintain the process pH and, thereby, the SOx removal efficiency. Dosage can also be inline before the scrubber. The alkaline and the specific amount depend highly on where and how the vessel operates. The pH adjustment is the primary environmental advantage as it ensures to neutralize the sulfuric wash water. Additionally, the water quality is reached by maintaining a low temperature by cooling the scrubber water with fresh seawater in a heat exchanger.

A small amount of the wash water is bled off from the process tank to a water treatment unit (WTU) to remove the accumulated impurities from the scrubber wash water. The WTU removes suspended solids, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH=, particulate matter (PM), and harmful elements stemming from the combustion process, such as oil, ash, and soot.

A water monitoring unit (WMU) is attached to continuously monitor and control pH, temperature, turbidity, and PAHs concerning IMO regulations on scrubber water discharge.

The scrubber sludge is led to a holding tank, where it is stored until land-based disposal is possible, against fee payment. The sludge can be dewatered with a filter press for further solid and liquid separation to reduce the weight of the sludge. Reduced sludge weight causes reduced sludge handling costs. The rejected water is then recirculated back into the scrubbing process.

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Marine Knowledge E-book

If you want to learn more about the marine industry, you can download our Marine Industry Knowledge e-book.

Learn everything worth knowing about marine scrubbers, wash water treatment, and how to comply with the IMO 2020 sulfur cap.

Read about emerging trends affecting the maritime industry, marine regulations, and how to stay compliant now and in the future. 

At LiqTech, our goal is to minimize the negative impacts of living an improved lifestyle. With innovative clean technology, we reduce the harmful effects caused by various polluting industries, including the marine industry, in line with current and emerging environmental regulations. We want to share our knowledge with you; therefore, we have created a universe full of marine knowledge.

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