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CRU: How IMO 2020 Will Impact Sulphur Supply

Thursday, 01 August 2019 | 00:00

The decision to implement more stringent sulphur limits for marine fuel will require a significant change in practices of both vessel operators and oil refiners.

CRU considers the impact on sulphur supply to be more of a gradual transition than a step change with much of the supply growth part of the typical capacity expansion of the industry. This Insight will set out CRU’s view of when, where and how the reduction of sulphur content in marine fuel will be achieved and the impact it will have on sulphur supply.

IMO 2020: What is changing and when?

In October 2016, the IMO committed to change the legislation in MARPOL Annex VI governing the sulphur content of marine fuels. CRU examined the impact to freight rates from the implementation of the IMO legislation in the Insight IMO MARPOL 2020 creates a generational shock to freight costs but there will also be an impact on oil refiners and the volume of sulphur which is produced.

Image: CRU

From 1 January 2020, the sulphur content of bunker fuel will be limited to 0.5%, although the fuel will still be permitted on vessels without scrubbers will have until March 2020. The decision by the IMO was clear on what would need to change but totally absent on how it should be achieved and the lack of direction on the process of implement is a key factor in why there is still no consensus on what the impact of the legislation will be.

What are the options available to vessel operators?

Bunker fuel consumption totals around 5.0 million bpd which is comprised of 3.0 million bpd of <3.5 % high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO), 1.6 million bpd of distillate fuel (Marine Gas Oil, MGO), 0.3 million bpd of <0.1% S ultra-low sulphur fuel oil (ULSFO) with the remainder accounted for by LNG. Vessel operators can achieve compliance with the IMO 2020 legislation via a range of strategies which can be split into two routes; consume HSFO with a scrubber or switch to an alternate fuel. The post 2020 fuelling of vessels is not only a question of what but also when. Vessel owners now have fewer available options as implementation approaches.
Source: CRU

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