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The Clean Arctic Alliance is keeping up the pressure over its claims about VLSFO’s black carbon emissions, but there appears to be confusion over the definition of these new IMO 2020-compliant fuels as ‘highly aromatic’.

Last week, industry organisations, including IBIA and CONCAWE, responded to an earlier letter from the 18-member Clean Arctic Alliance which had claimed that vessels’ use of VLSFO could ramp up their black carbon emissions.

In an open letter to Dr Sian Prior of the CAA, the industry bodies took issue with the assertion that VLSFOs exhibit high aromatic content.

‘Among the key points we identified in the Joint Industry Guidance were that these 0.50% sulphur fuels were expected to be much more variable in terms of composition and characteristics than had been experienced previously,’ they said.

‘In your letter, you refer to fuels with a high aromatic content that show a potential link with black carbon emissions. We expected there to be a greater tendency for 0.50% sulphur fuels to be more paraffinic – not aromatic – in nature. The information available since the introduction of the 0.50% sulphur limit on 1 January 2020, suggests our expectations have been generally correct.’

In today’s letter from the CAA to the industry organisations, the Alliance calls for greater engagement and collaboration between all stakeholders. The letter includes three requests:

1. Will you work with us to ensure that all fuel parameters and data that are likely to affect emissions are made public, and in the case of fuels that are still in development before they are brought to market?
2. Will you work with us to ensure that no new fuel placed on the market results in increases in black carbon or other air pollutants?
3. Will you work with us to expedite measures to reduce clack carbon emissions from the burning of existing fuels?

The CAA also notes its agreement that the IMO’s Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) Sub-Committee (which takes place in London next week) ‘is an appropriate forum to progress debate on the issue of black carbon emissions from the use of marine fuels.’

However, the Alliance continues to press home its point that the new VLSFOs are highly aromatic, a viewpoint that has been contested by a number of bunker industry experts.

The CAA letter notes that: ‘We are also extremely concerned that new products are entering the marine fuel market when basic data on the composition of the fuel blend is unavailable and when there is little, if any, data available on the black carbon emissions associated with their combustion.

‘Your organisations state that these fuels are likely not to produce more black carbon, but provide no evidence to support this. We stand by the concerns identified in the research submitted to PPR 7 by Germany and Finland which clearly shows “that the combustion of fuels with higher aromatic content emits higher concentrations of black carbon” and identifies that the “tested 0.5% sulphur fuels were ordered as possible sample mixtures from refinery streams most likely to be used in 2020”. ‘

The letter continues: ‘Whatever the market share of highly aromatic blends within the overall VLSFO market [editor’s emphasis added], we believe that members of the marine fuel industry have a professional duty to alert the appropriate authorities at both national government level and at the IMO, when a situation arises where members are developing fuel types that would contradict established policy efforts to reduce black carbon - especially given that many of your own websites claim that you take climate change seriously.’

GLOBAL: Clean Arctic Alliance calls for ban on ships burning ‘super pollutant’ VLSFO in the Arctic

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