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Mitigate risk in a mixed fuel future

The guidance comes from energy major ExxonMobil which is taking a leading role in helping the shipping industry prepare for the 0.5% sulphur cap on shipping emissions mandated to take effect globally from the start of 2020.

The IMO ruling will force shipowners to radically reduce the marine sulphur usage by seven times below the current limit of 3.5%.

Iain White, Global Marine Marketing Manager for ExxonMobil, said: “The measure will reshape the industry. We’ve had some 30 years of ocean going vessels which have operated in a single fuel environment. The marine industry is heading for a mixed fuel, or multi-fuel future. What is right for one ship or fleet might not be for another, so understanding your operation and making a fuel decision that best fits is key.”


Iain White, Global Marine Marketing Manager for ExxonMobil
‘What is right for one ship or fleet might not be for another, so understanding your operation and making a fuel decision that best fits is key’
Iain White, Global Marine Marketing Manager for ExxonMobil

A key implication of the 2020 mandate is that vessels will only be allowed to use high sulphur, heavy fuel oil (HFO) if an exhaust gas scrubber has been installed. Operators may choose to install a scrubber, or they may consider a range of options including:

 

  • Distillates i.e. marine gas oil (MGO)
  • New low sulphur fuels
  • Fuel blends
  • Premium ECA category fuels
  • Liquefied natural gas (LNG)

 

White said: “Each option will need to be assessed by owners, taking account of vessel type, route, age, engine and strategy. It’s unlikely one compliance option will win out overall.”

Such warnings include the possibility that some 0.5% sulphur fuels may have high levels of cat fines (particles) that can cause significant engine damage, leading to expensive repairs and potential vessel delays. Operators will also have to carefully match cylinder oil to the type of fuel chosen – again, to avoid engine damage. Fuel supply may be another factor: fuel sellers may change refinery streams to access new, compliant products, with associated potential disruption.


Cylinder oil

Matching cylinder oil to the type of fuel chosen for 2020 compliance is an important consideration for operators 
Matching cylinder oil to the type of fuel chosen for 2020 compliance is an important consideration for operators 

“Operators may have to contend with major issues around fuel compatibility, stability and availability as we move into a post 2020 world, so they absolutely need to be considering the options that best fit their operation now, and not hold off until the eve of 2020,” warned White.

ExxonMobil offers a range of insights here: https://www.exxonmobil.com/en/marine

Looking beyond 2020, shipping seems likely to face even further pressure on the fuels front via the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS). The proposed ETS would include the shipping sector from 2023, if the IMO does not agree to a decarbonisation measure in 2021 – a measure whose roadmap the IMO has agreed to lay out in 2018.

White said that while HFO “will still be around for some time to come” the inexorable drive to reduce NOx and CO2 and fuel consumption “makes other fuels become not only viable, but also attractive.”

ExxonMobil will take its advisory messaging to the industry at London International Shipping Week in September.

Iain White will join an eminent panel of leaders in maritime and risk to discuss instruments and strategies needed to avoid risk pitfalls, maintain access to capital and avoid earnings volatility. The panel will be part of the Lloyd’s List Business Briefing – Risking Risk and Receding Return on 11 September. Attendance is by registration only, available at  http://info.lloydslist.com/LondonBB

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