ABS published the white paper “Sustainability Whitepaper: LNG as Marine Fuel” in which it discusses the growing concern surrounding methane and the potential for future regulations for methane slip.
ethane slip is the escape of methane gas from production, processing, transport, operation or combustion. In terms of internal combustion (IC) engines, “methane slip” refers to the unburned methane present in IC engine exhaust emissions. The amount of methane contained in the IC engine exhaust varies greatly between engine combustion types (Otto or Diesel), specific engine designs and engine loads.
Methane is of primary concern due to its increased Global Warming Potential (GWP) over other greenhouse gases (GHGs). There are various studies on the life-cycle GHG emissions, the results of which are typically shown on a 100-year or 20-year GWP basis.
It is known that methane emissions in the atmosphere can trap solar radiation more than carbon dioxide (CO2). Methane emissions are estimated to be 84 times more severe than CO2 on a 20-year basis and 28 times more severe than CO2 over the 100-year basis by the IPCC AR5 report
According to the report, there are three primary causes of methane slip:
- Scavenging leakage
- Incomplete combustion
- Trapped methane in the combustion chamber crevices.
Scavenging leakage takes place when the methane and air mixture passes directly to the exhaust, for example when gas injection to the cylinder occurs prior to closing the exhaust valve. Incomplete combustion occurs in all IC engine types but is primarily an issue for lean burn Otto process gas engines.
As ABS says, incomplete combustion can occur for many reasons (including trapped methane, detailed below) but it is typically due to flame quenching close to the cylinder walls and extinguishing of the combustion flame at low pressure and temperature.
This is effectively fuel quenching at the coldest part of the combustion chamber while the engine is running. This results in increased methane emissions during transient operation and operation at low engine loads.
To keep combustion stable and reduce methane slip, lean burn Otto engines need to accurately control combustion between knock and misfire conditions.
Dead volumes, or crevices, within an IC engine cylinder and combustion chamber are also a source for incomplete combustion and an opportunity for methane to leak directly to the exhaust. The amount of methane slip emitted is highly dependent on the installed engine technology.
Methane slip can be reduced by running engines at higher power output. While this is not possible in all ship propulsion and power generation arrangements, it can be used in power generation load sharing to optimize power plant operation to reduce methane emissions.
The IMO’s Intersessional Working Group on Reduction of GHG Emissions from Ships continues to consider approaches to control methane slip, which is part of the 37 Candidate Measure Proposals submitted to IMO for adoption. Options to address methane slip include direct methane emission controls or indirect means through fuel carbon factors. The engine manufacturers’ latest specifications and latest updates on the dual-fuel (DF) engine concepts regarding possible primary reductions of methane slip, should be referenced, the report concludes.