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Mobil Calls Attention To Greener Issues

Mobil Marine Division held a private symposium for shipowners and customers focusing on the company's efforts to create "environmentally acceptable" products, particularly marine lubricants, in an effort to manufacture products that add years onto an engine's lifecycle. In order to bypass terms such as "environmentally friendly," and "green," which, according to Mobil's Sandy Macfarlane, offer no standard of measurement, the company has begun labeling selected products "Environmental Awareness Lubricants" (EAL), and has established guidelines to express the connotations of this phraseology. By assembling data based on Mobil's Explorer test engine, the company also looked at the future of emissions regulation and their impact on shipping .

Mobil Marine has defined EAL lubricants as products that will "have a reduced general impact on the ecosystem when used correctly," and possess one or more of the following characteristics: are readily biodegradable; are virtually nontoxic; are compatible with other environmental awareness products; and produce less waste, extending engine drain intervals.

Biodegradability standards are formulated by adding bacteria from a sewage treatment process to a lubricant product, and observing the level of aerobic degradation after a period of 28 days. The product is then classed by Mobil as "inherently biodegradable," or "readily biodegradable." The company reported that this process is based on tests established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The toxicity standards are pronounced based on a case study that Mobil performs using rainbow trout fish, measuring their lifespan and toxicity levels after being isolated in a tank and being consistently exposed to marine lubricants for a period of 96 hours.

This procedure is reportedly an adaptation of a similar test developed by the British Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF).

If 50 percent of the trout are alive after 96 hours of swimming in a tank of water with mechanicallycirculated marine lubricant, then the product is declared "virtually non-toxic," and labeled as such by Mobil. After a video demonstration of the Mobil trout test, Mr.

Macfarlane reminded those present, "Using these lubricants does not absolve you for any accidents you might have." Mobil's presentations concentrated on the company's role in combining technology with the need to preserve a balance between the delicate ecosystem and commercial productivity. This was most clearly illustrated by the explanation of the Mobil Explorer — a full-size engine installed in a laboratory setting, facilitating the study of gas emissions levels and characteristics in conjunction with cylinder oil development, prior to actual sea trials. As explained by Alban Eyres, worldwide technical manager, the Explorer, a 4 MW Sulzer 6RTA38, is installed at a facility in Gravenchon, France, and test research programs are performed according to the developing needs of the shipping industry.

Currently, New Sulzer Diesel and Lloyd's Register are using the Explorer in a study of selective catalytic reduction (SCR) to large, slow-speed diesels. Mobil's objective is to create a cylinder oil that will outperform competitive oils by extending piston overhaul to four years, and conform to the IMO's proposed lower sulfur fuel content regulations, as explained in a presentation by Mobil's Fred Hills.

The company uses Explorer to determine if new cylinder oil technology adversely impacts exhaust system durability. Tests encompass 6,000 hours a year, in three phases. Mobil seems to be doing its part to participate in the general sweep of environmentalism that is penetrating the shipping industry. In her opening remarks to the conference participants, Ellen McCoy said, "We are not the least expensive company, but we cost the less." Measures to protect the marine ecosystem can be compatible with technological advancements; especially if one considers the cost of a massive cleanup operation compared to cost of preventative maintenance.

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