Uncertainty looms over marine fuel sulfur limit: Fuel for Thought

In about 20 months, the shipping industry is going to start burning a fuel that today they know next to nothing about. The International Maritime Organization has set a January 2020 deadline for a new 0.5% sulfur limit on marine fuels. The move is poised to force most shipowners to switch from burning residual fuel oil to a new, unfamiliar, less-sulfurous product. A study by CE Delft, commissioned by the IMO in 2016 before it decided to cap the sulfur limit, shows demand for less-than 0.5% sulfur marine fuel will equal about 233 million mt/year when the rule takes effect in 2020. Refiners are working on new products to meet the standard, but they won’t be ready to talk specifics any time soon. Uncertainty over what’s to come still has many in the shipping industry wondering what happens next. Will non-compliance be widespread? What is the viability of LNG bunkering as an alternative in the short term? How many shipowners will carry on as usual using fuel oil and installing scrubbers to clean emissions on board? It’s thought the majority of shipowners will switch to a new 0.5% sulfur fuel, but refineries around the world are likely to take a wide… continue reading

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