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In the next of ExxonMobil’s Fuel for Thought series of articles, Iain White, Global Marketing Manager, suggests that the shipping sector still has much groundwork to do in order to comply with the introduction of the 0.5% global sulphur cap in 2020.


The run-up to the implementation of the International Marine Organization’s (IMO) 2020 0.5% global sulphur cap is creating uncertainty across the marine industry, according to the results of a survey we conducted in 2017, wites Iain White.

Its findings reveal a range of opinions that, taken together, suggest that there is not one obvious route to compliance that will apply to all vessels. The marine industry is heading towards a multi-fuel future.

More than two-thirds (70%) of survey respondents think their industry isn’t fully prepared for the changes the revised sulphur cap will bring. The results not only highlight a sense of confusion, they also reveal some expectations – when asked how the sulphur cap would affect the marine industry, the majority believe it will lead to the development of new low sulphur fuels.

Any increase in the fuel mix, such as new low sulphur formulations and low sulphur blends, brings a heightened risk of serious compatibility and stability issues. Both can trigger the formation of sludge, which has the potential to block filters and pipes and leaving tanks with a residue that cannot be pumped out. This must be treated as a critical concern as fuel systems can become paralysed and the job of cleaning up the results is costly, difficult and time consuming.

Crews also need to be prepared to segregate fuels in order to avoid challenges. Come 2020, it will be essential that vessel operators choose fuel suppliers that offer a high level of technical support and detailed fuel insights in order to minimise compatibility and stability risks.

When asked about the uptake of liquefied natural gas (LNG), 31% of respondents believe there will be a growth in its adoption as a marine fuel. These findings align with ExxonMobil’s 2017 Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, which predicts that by 2040 global LNG consumption will rise to more than two and a half times the 2015 level.

Forty-five percent of respondents predict an increased investment in abatement technologies (scrubbers). However, only 11% said they were looking to install a scrubber before 2020, with 40% citing a lack of economic clarity as a reason for forgoing investment. The future availability of heavy fuel oil will also shape investment decisions.

Taken overall, the results of the survey indicate that the marine industry cannot adopt a ‘one size fits all’ solution. To avoid the pitfalls that may lie ahead, it’s vital that operators work closely with trusted fuel suppliers to ensure that they select the best route to compliance for their vessel’s needs.

This feature is published in the December 2017/January 2018 issue of Bunkerspot magazine. Subscribers can also download a digital version of the magazine from the Bunkerspot website (www.bunkerspot.com).

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