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Marine Log

March 14, 2008

EPA announces new emissions standards for marine diesels

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today announced new emissions standards that, it says, "will slash pollution from locomotive and marine diesel engines by up to 90 percent, helping Americans to breathe cleaner air as soon as this year."

The new standards apply to both newly manufactured marine diesel engines and remanufactured commercial marine diesel engines above 600 kilowatt (kW) or 800 horsepower (hp) with displacement less than 30 liters per cylinder installed on vessels flagged or registered in the United States. These are divided into three categories for the purposes of EPA's standards. The cut points for the standards have been revised in the final rule to ensure that the appropriate standards apply to every group of engines. Category 1 represents engines up to 7 liters per cylinder displacement. Category 2 includes engines from 7 to 30 liters per cylinder. Finally, Category 3 engines are those at or above 30 liters per cylinder. Category 3 engines are not included in this rule. They are typically used for propulsion on ocean-going vessels and will be addressed in a separate EPA rulemaking.

When fully implemented, says EPA, the new standards will reduce soot or particulate matter (PM) by 90 percent or 27,000 tons and reduce nitrogen oxides emissions (NOx) by 80 percent or nearly 800,000 tons. Nationwide says the agency, the regulation will help prevent 1,400 premature deaths, and 120,000 lost workdays annually in 2030. The estimated annual health benefits are valued between $8.4 billion and $12 billion. When older locomotive and marine engines reach the end of their useful life, and new engines enter into the nation's diesel fleet, the benefits of today's action will increase.

The rule cuts emissions from all types of diesel locomotives as well as from a wide range of marine sources, including ferries, tugboats, Great Lake freighters and all types of marine auxiliary engines.

For the first time ever, the rule requires remanufacturing standards for marine engines, reductions in engine idling, and the use of after treatment technology that will further reduce diesel emissions. Phasing in tighter long-term standards for PM and NOx will begin in 2014 for marine diesel engines and in 2015 for locomotive engines. Advanced after-treatment technology will apply to both types of engines. The effective dates for NOx will be two years earlier from last year's proposal, bringing cleaner air sooner.

The EPA says marine diesels are significant contributors to air pollution in many cities and coastal areas. Marine diesel engines produced today must meet emissions requirements, but the current standards are relatively modest and these engines continue to emit significant amounts of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM), both of which contribute to serious public health problems.

EPA is addressing emissions from marine engines in two ways, through their fuels and through their emission limits.

In May 2004, as part of the Clean Air Nonroad Diesel Rule, EPA finalized new requirements for nonroad diesel fuel that will decrease the allowable levels of sulfur in fuel used in marine vessels by 99 percent. These fuel improvements, which begin to take effect in 2007, will create immediate and significant environmental and public health benefits by reducing PM from new and existing engines.

In March 2008, EPA finalized a three part program that will dramatically reduce emissions from marine diesel engines below 30 liters per cylinder displacement. These include marine propulsion engines used on vessels from recreational and small fishing boats to towboats, tugboats and Great Lake freighters, and marine auxiliary engines ranging from small generator sets to large generator sets on ocean-going vessels. The rule will cut PM emission from these engines by as much as 90 percent and NOx emissions by as much as 80 percent when fully implemented.

The final rule includes the first-ever national emission standards for existing marine diesel engines, applying to engines larger than 600kW when they are remanufactured -- to take effect as soon as certified systems are available, as early as 2008. The rule also sets Tier 3 emissions standards for newly-built engines that will phase in beginning in 2009. Finally, the rule establishes Tier 4 standards for newly-built commercial marine diesel engines above 600kW, based on the application of high-efficiency catalytic aftertreatment technology, phasing in beginning in 2014.

More detailed information is available here.

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