IMO 2020 - Sulphur Changes To Shipping Fuels

The International Maritime Organisation (I.M.O.) will implement new legislation for a 0.50% sulphur cap for global marine fuels on 1 January 2020. From this point on, ships will have to use marine fuels with a sulphur content less than or equal to 0.50%, with the current limit being 3.50%. Emission Control Areas (E.C.A.s) are exemptions to this legislation - where a Sulphur cap of 0.1% applies instead. It is the engineers’ & captains’ responsibility to ensure fuel taken on board meets these limits and other fuels are not mixed with E.C.A. compliant fuels.

To accomodate these changes, vessels are either utilising existing HFO (Residual or Heavy Fuel Oils) with high Sulphur content and then 'scrubbing' the exahust gasses to remove the harmful emissions caused by Sulphur. However the devices requires on the vessel to acommplish this, 'Scrubbers', are generally very expensive and large. Most ships are instead utilising middle distillate fuels (ISO8217 Marine Distillate) with a low Sulphur level, that complies with the IMO laws, albeit the fuel itself is more expensive than existing Heavy Fuel Oils.

Ships that have used HFO for many years may find the transition to Middle Distillate fuels difficult due to the lower Sulhur levels. A range of issues have been identified by various industry bodies that may require remedial action to safeguard the engine and fuel system integrity.

Shipping Fuel Quality Issues From IMO 2020 Changes

There are various issues concerning Sulphur reduction in fuels:

1. Sulphur inhibits microbial growth in fuel. The less Sulphur present, the more likely growth to be seen in coming years. This leads to filter blockages (leading to fuel starvation & engine shutdown), fuel pump failure, tank & line corrosion.

2. Reduced fuel stability leading to further tank sludge and fuel discolouration (long chain hydrocarbons / asphaltenes). 

3. Vastly reduced lubricity leading to possibly pump system failure & other issues. Processing to remove Sulphur removes other components with natural lubricity.

4. Combustion efficiency. A potential reduction in fuel economy.

Remedial Action

For vessels moving to Middle Distaillate fuel oils, Fuelcare offer a complete package to protect engines and fuel systems against the reduction in Sulphur content. This involves proven, approved fuel additives alongside the latest in fuel additive dosing technology. 

For more information please get in touch with Fuelcare.