Shippers, refiners at odds over IMO fuel quality

Fuel quality is the great unknown for the shipping and oil refining industry. The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) January 2020 deadline could see the majority of vessel owners switching to cleaner marine fuels incompatible with each other. Other solutions look similarly haphazard. The IMO’s global sulfur limit for marine fuels drops to 0.5% next January from 3.5%, and the industry is developing a wide range of very low sulfur fuel oils, which may be compliant but also vary in other qualities. The specifications of the new fuels matter because marine engineers need to know how they will interact with their vessels, and bunker purchasers need to start planning which fuels they will be able to buy, at which ports and in which combinations. Imagine a driver in a car pulling up outside a filling station uncertain as to whether the gasoline at the pump would cause their car to break down. But this unthinkable scenario looms large at sea. There is at present no guarantee any of the new bunker fuels will be compatible with each other — when mixed in a single bunker tank, they may separate and form sludge that will block filters and ultimately damage the engine. Viscosity differences could be… continue reading

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Source: CTRM Center

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