assessment of remote airborne monitoring to control sulfur emissions from ocean-going vessels

Practicum Project | 2020

Assessment of remote airborne monitoring to control sulfur emissions from ocean-going vessels

The  transportation industry depends heavily on petroleum fuels. While stringent legislation and alternative energy sources are slowly driving a departure from oil usage on land, ocean-going vessels (OGVs), or ships, remain heavily dependent on petroleum derived products. Unfortunately, the continued reliance on fossil fuels has human health consequences. Exposure to sulfur-rich emissions from oil combustion correlates with long-lasting and severe health issues including asthma, pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and even death. Portside communities such as San Pedro and Wilmington in southern Los Angeles County, which are heavily populated by lower income and ethnic minority groups, are disproportionately impacted by pollution from OGVs in the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the busiest port complex in the country.

Current legislation under the California Sulfur Rule aims to limit the sulfur content of fuels used by ships to 0.1% within 200 nautical miles of shorelines. Yet, faced with little scrutiny and trivial consequences for non-compliance, marine vessels continue to burn “bunker fuels” – the bottom of the barrel, sulfur-rich, noxious sludge that remains after petroleum processing. Current methods of testing fuel content and monitoring ship emissions, which take place in port, once ships have already reached shore, have proven ineffective for enforcing the rules. Novel tools are needed to extend the range of emission monitoring capabilities for detecting marine cheats at sea, before they can pollute California’s air.

Our project will investigate the many environmental and human health consequences attributed to high sulfur fuel combustion, as well as analyze the potential for using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones equipped with sensor technology that could identify non-compliant vessels by measuring the sulfur content of their emission plumes. Current emissions regulations cannot be effective if they are not properly enforced; since improved detection methods will make cheating more risky, UAV technology can allow for better enforcement and stimulate compliance. In the long term, this will help lift a significant health burden imposed on vulnerable coastal communities, redress related environmental justice issues, and set the precedent for non-Californian ports in the United States to follow.

View our Final Report

Student Team: Malcolm Tjin Mun Au, Cammila Blasquez, Fong Chea, Christopher Holguin, Jamie Leonard, Katie Schenk, Arushi Sinha

Advisor: Dr. Pablo Saide

Client: Alex Spataru

Our team wishes to thank the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to our project:

Heather Arias, California Air Resource Board 

Alex Barber, Ship Fuel Enforcement Officer, California Air Resource Board

Alan Barreca, Professor, University of California Los Angeles

Howard Berman, E4 Strategic Solutions

Damian Breen, Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Barry Brennan, Chairman, Flying Lion, Inc.

Jack Broadbent, Bay Area Air Quality Management District

Guido Calcagno, European Maritime Safety Agency

Richard Corey, California Air Resource Board 

Eugene Dawydiak, Supervisor Marine Surveyor, United States Maritime Administration

Lauren Dunlap, Star Crest Consulting Group LLC

Svein Erik Enge, Norwegian Maritime Authority 

Tim Fisher, UCLA School of Engineering

Lucie Hronek, Flying Lion, Inc.

Matti Irjala, AEROMON

Kent Johnson, Associate Research Engineer, University of California Riverside

Scott Keller, Research Professor, University of California Los Angeles

Debi Klossing, California Air Resource Board 

Maria Kousa, AEROMON

Sang-Mi Lee, South Coast Air Quality Management District

Captain Kip Louttit, Executive Director, Marine Exchange of Southern California

Jason Low, South Coast Air Quality Management District

Chris Lynch, UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering

Joe Lyou, President and CEO, Clean Air Coalition

Penny McDaniel, EPA Region IX Co-Lead 

Johan Mellqvist, Chalmers University of Technology

Mary Nichols, California Air Resource Board 

Emre Ozen, Optoknowledge Systems Inc  

Captain Sam Pecota, California State University Maritime Academy

Andrea Polidori, South Coast Air Quality Management District

Marko Pricevac, UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering

Todd Sax, California Air Resource Board 

Stephanie Seddon-Brown, European Maritime Safety Agency

Roger Strevens, Chairman, Trident Alliance & Wallenius Wilhelmsen 

Ward Van Roy, Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Science

Tianyang Wang, Researcher, California Air Resource Board 

UCLA Joint Institute for Regional Earth System Science and Engineering (JIFRESSE)

Daniel Yuska, U.S. Maritime Administration