Ballast Water Treatment Systems

 

March 1, 2019

If a vessel has been fitted with a US Coast Guard type-approved Ballast Water Treatment System (BWTS) in recent years, chances are likely that it was tested at the Golden Bear Research Facility – presently the only BWTS test facility operating in the US.

If a vessel has been fitted with a US Coast Guard type-approved Ballast Water Treatment System (BWTS) in recent years, chances are likely that it was tested at the Golden Bear Research Facility.

Created in partnership with California State University Maritime Academy and Moss Landing Maritime Laboratories, Golden Bear provides Type Approval testing of Ballast Water treatment systems for the US Coast Guard and the International Maritime Organization.

And with the closure of two US test facilities in recent years, Golden Bear stands as the only BWTS test facility operating in the US.

"Our plate is extremely full," said Nick Welschmeyer, Lead Scientist for the Golden Bear Research Facility, adding that at times the facility has had as many as three vendors being tested at the same time on the ship.

"All ships must get a type approval for trade in the US and for compliance in ports through the US Coast Guard," he said. "We serve a very important role in testing for the United States, and we have a lineup of companies and vendors that have produced a ballast treatment system who want to enter that market."


While US Coast Guard regulations – which are more stringent than the IMO's – have been enacted since 2012, the agency did not make its first type approval for Ballast Water treatment systems until about two years ago.

Meanwhile, many ship owners are confronted with looming deadlines to have Ballast Water management systems installed. These owners are facing the possibility of their vessels having random Ballast Water checks to see if the water coming out of the tank is meeting or complying with the discharge standards.

At least 15 types of Ballast Water Management Systems have received type approval from the US Coast Guard, with more than a dozen in line ready to undergo the rigorous testing needed so they can secure type approval and bring their products to the marketplace.


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One of the newest systems to receive type approval from USCG is De Nora's BALPURE Ballast Water treatment system, a "combination of the slipstream approach, the use of novel patented reverse polarity electrodes and the variable biocide dosing," according to the company's recent announcement.

De Nora's system, approved in December, is designed to allow 0.5 to 1 percent of seawater entering the ballast line to flow into the electrochemical unit.

It is a solution for ships with big ballast tanks and high pumping rates such as bulkers and LNG carriers because it eliminates the need to store hypochlorite, making it more efficient and less wasteful, according to De Nora.

"De Nora has spent a long time working towards this type approval and we are delighted that our certification by the USCG has now been granted," said Dr. Stelios Kyriacou, General Manager of De Nora Ballast Water Management Systems. "Our team has worked hard to ensure owners and operators can partner with De Nora for their Ballast Water treatment needs in full confidence that we will deliver safe and reliable Ballast Water compliance for the lifetime of their ship. The flexible configuration of the BALPURE system makes it suitable for new build and retrofit projects alike, whilst the operational adaptability delivers significant OPEX benefits over competing technologies.


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The BALPURE, one of three systems recognized by the US EPA Science Advisory Board able to be "10 times more stringent than the IMO D-2 standard," was shipboard tested on an Aframax tanker operating on the US west coast, which had been using the system in California and Alaska for several years, according to the company.

Securing type approval for a Ballast Water treatment system can be a long, expensive and rigorous process, Welschmeyer said.

"The great difficulty in testing to the Coast Guard standard is that the producer of the treatment system has to install it on a ship and that is a million dollar project," he said. "You can't just walk onto any vessel and then go into the engine room and sit something the size of a Cadillac in the tiny engine room because it wasn't built for it to begin with."

The Golden Bear, however, was designed to allow for water to be pumped up to the top deck and have a vendor load a cargo van with their system onto the outdoor deck and then "plug and play."

"They simply crane it onto our system, connect the pipes, and then they're off and running," he said.

Testing is also time-consuming, taking anywhere between six months or longer to complete and requiring tests in different bodies of water of different types.

"These tests might take a minimum of two weeks apiece to complete start to finish, and we need 15 of them," Welschmeyer said. "And if there's a problem – invalid tests because we didn't meet a challenge, or if the system doesn't pass the test – we continue on, but they are required to pass five consecutive tests in a row."

Meanwhile, there are technology improvements in developing quick tests to assay how Ballast Water looks, he said.

Seattle-based Global Diving & Salvage, Inc. has been working with Glosten, the US Geological Survey and the US National Park Service on demonstrations of the Ballast Responder, a compact mobile Ballast Water treatment system that can travel to any vessel that has untreated or unmanaged Ballast Water because of a grounding or an emergency situation, the company said.

In October, the Ballast Responder was used on the 730-foot bulk carrier Tim S. Dool on the Great Lakes.

"Equipment was operational within eight hours of arrival and the first set of tanks were fully treated, neutralized, and ready to discharge only 20 hours later," Glosten Principal and Ballast Water treatment expert Kevin Reynolds said in a statement.

The first test involved treating 2,400 cubic meters of Ballast Water from Lake Ontario in three tanks, then treated in-tank while traveling through the Welland Canal and let out in Lake Erie. The second test treated 2,400 cubic meters of Ballast Water from the Detroit River and let out in Lake Superior.

"This deployment provided the opportunity to evaluate the performance and practicality of Ballast Responder on a working Great Lakes bulk carrier to treat challenging fresh water and challenging tank configurations," Reynolds said.

Moss Landing Marine Laboratories was also on hand to conduct an independent assessment of the system's biological efficacy.

The Ballast Responder was also used in May on a 350-foot cargo vessel in Coos Bay, Oregon, where the system treated 3,990 tons of Ballast Water from six tanks.

"The Ballast Responder has provided a solution to address situations where either a vessel does not have treatments on board or available for treating its Ballast Water and it can also be a valuable tool as a contingency measure for vessels whose treatment systems are not working properly," said Rian vanden Hooff, Ballast Water Program & Invasive Species Management Coordinator for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.


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"It's a reasonable and feasible approach for providing contingency balanced treatment solutions," he said. "And they (Glosten and Global) are the ones that really did a lot of the pilot testing and developing the procedures and protocols that gave us the confidence that we could approve use of that approach in state of Oregon waters."

For Oregon, which established its state Ballast Water program in 2001, being proactive is a key strategy for tackling the issue.

"For the state of Oregon, at least 50 nonindigenous species have been established in the lower Columbia River; most of those have been attributed to the shipping vector as being responsible for their introduction," Hooff said.

The invasive species there have not been the headline-grabbing examples that have caused catastrophic economic or environmental damages. In fact, many of the nonindigenous species that have become established in the Columbia River are planktonic species that form the base of the food web of the Columbia River that supports salmon and other native species, he said.

"The full impact of how the presence of these nonindigenous species could be complicating salmon recovery is still very much unknown," Hooff said. "And so for us, it's about protecting our state waters from the potentially dire economic and environmental consequences and also recognizing the threat that could be posed by invasive species to the hydrosystem infrastructure and to the recovery of threatened and endangered species."

Being proactive on Ballast Water is key, Hooff said.

"Oregon's perspective on this was prevention-based, to do something before we actually have a major problem like that," Hooff said. "The examples that are clear from the Great Lakes and from the San Francisco Bay Area have demonstrated the economic and environmental harm that can come from invasive species. And the focus of this program is to prevent that from happening on the Columbia River and other waters of the state."

Technology is now playing a major role in addressing the issue.

"Prior to 2012, we were relying solely on mid-ocean Ballast Water exchange as the predominant Ballast Water management practice, but that largely has been viewed as a stopgap measure globally as a solution to solve this problem," Hooff said. "And so because of that there's been a significant investment of resources for the development and implementation of treatment technologies and I would say investment by the manufacturers of treatment systems but also certainly by ship owners and ship operators as well."

As this new first generation technology is rolling out, Oregon will continue to require exchange in addition to treatment for high risk arrivals.

"Mid-ocean ballast exchange remains a very important tool in effective management strategy for protecting freshwater port environments like the Columbia River," Hooff said. "That mid-ocean exchange high salinity water results in ballast that is going to contain species that are not likely to survive when discharged into a low salinity or freshwater Harbor like the Columbia River. Because of that we have retained ballast exchange requirements for what we deemed to be high risk arrivals to the Columbia River.

"I think that's an important piece about our state level program and our approach in making sure that it's still compatible with the efforts that are being undertaken to meet federal standards."

Hawaii also adopted its own Ballast Water management rules in 2007. The Aloha state has seen the presence of invasive species through Ballast Water or at the bottom of a ship, including the Snowflake coral, which threatens Hawaii's biodiversity by monopolizing food and space resources and by displacing native species. It has been observed growing on and smothering black coral colonies at an astonishing rate, according to the State's Department of Land and Natural Resources website.

The state requires vessels to have a Ballast Water management plan and file a Ballast Water reporting form with DLNR at least 24 hours before arrival.

"Our ability to protect further introduction of these non-native species - aquatic nonindigenous species specifically, affects our industries, including the fishing industry, the aquaculture industries and the tourism industry," Ballast Water and Hull Fouling Coordinator Jules Kuo said.

"Once these things get in, they're very hard to eradicate, and you have examples that cost the state and taxpayers a lot of money, so investing in prevention will ultimately be a better situation."

Nicole Dobroski, who leads the Marine Invasive Species Program at the California State Lands Commission, said California wants to adopt even more stringent standards on Ballast Water than federal standards, but technology has not yet caught up to meet the state's standards. The hope is that the US Coast Guard will release the performance data on Ballast Water treatment systems to help inform California's own standards, a request that USCG initially denied.

"We need to make decisions about the ability of treatment systems to manage ballast water," she said. "Certainly we understand that there are issues of proprietary design and construction but when it comes to the concentration of living organisms in water that is being discharged from a vessel into US or California waters there shouldn't be anything proprietary about the information that impacts the health of the waterways, and so we strongly believe that that information should be open to the public."

Ballast Water is a major pathway for the introduction of nonindigenous indigenous species into California waters, Dobroski said.

"Invasive species cost the state and the US billions of dollars each year," she said. "It impacts the economy the environment and health, so it's incumbent upon us to address this challenge and ensure that there's a healthy environment for all California citizens."

One of the newest ballast water treatment systems to receive type approval from USCG is De Nora's BALPURE ballast water treatment system, approved in December. Photo courtesy of De Nora.

 
 

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