If you mention the words “emissions regulations” to anyone in the diesel engine industry, you will usually detect a noticeable cringing on their part.  It is followed by bad news that is sometimes downright distressing.  Yet the news is not all bad.
As far as the effect of EPA Emissions Regulations on Northern Lights Marine Generators the good news is that the product line under 40 kWw, which constitutes the majority of the product in the Caribbean, remains largely unchanged (IMO has no regulations for engines below 175 hp).  The M673LD3 (5 kW @ 60 Hz) through the M844LW3 will not see any changes for the foreseeable future.  The M944T will be changed to the M944T3.  The only outwardly apparent difference will be a rating change from 38 kW to 40 kw in 3 phase configurations, but the 1 phase rating will remain at 38kW.
The 30 kW (M944W3) is an unfortunate victim of the tightened emissions threshold. The engine cannot achieve emissions regulations at 60 Hz, but the 50 Hz version at 26 kW remains a viable and available product for appropriate applications.  The 25kW-40kW rating gap (at 60Hz) is recognized as being a significant hurdle, and Northern Lights’ product development team is actively seeking alternatives to close this gap and fill out the product line.
Above 40 kW, the news remains largely good for any vessel under 500 gross tons as the Northern Lights product line meets emissions standards without after treatment.  Beginning in 2016, vessels above 500 gross tons will need after treatment (in the form of SCR: Selective Catalytic Reduction) to achieve the NOX levels set by the IMO.  Thankfully, most of us dodge the after treatment bullet until the regulations again change in 2021 for sub-500gt vessels.  After that, any vessel with an engine producing 127 kW or greater will be required to have after treatment for NOX.  However, Northern Lights will continue to stay ahead of the emissions technology curve and is already working to provide a fully-compliant package for the upcoming regulations around the world.
Interestingly IMO is not addressing “soot”, the bane of most marine diesel engine owners.  Despite that, Northern Lights has been addressing soot for many years.  Some may remember the old STARS units (Soot Trap And Regeneration System).  It was very effective for treating soot in exhaust.  It used heaters that doubled as a load bank and also heated the exhaust gas to a level where it could be catalyzed.  Due to problems, mostly dealing with misapplication and maintenance, the product line was discontinued some years ago.  Today’s solution is called a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF) that does not need heaters.  The DPF does need to be closely matched to the engine though to make sure that the generator Exhaust Gas Temperature (EGT) is high enough to be properly catalyzed. With the benefit of less complicated systems to clean our exhaust, comes the burden to periodically clean the catalytic “brick”.  More maintenance! However, the fact that DPF technology has been widely adopted in both on-highway and industrial applications means that there are a number of outlets for DPF filter cleaning in most ports of call around the world.
So, it could be worse, as they say. Most of us can continue to use our generators in the manner that we have been accustomed to, due to some engineering magic done by Northern Lights.  But changes will be felt by the larger yacht owner and crew.  Years of experience has taught us that as soon as we learn to comply with the new regulations, there will be more on the horizon.  However, the progressive team at Northern Lights will continually strive to keep us ahead of the regulatory curve, no matter what new challenges come our way!