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Engine operation in a low-sulphur environment

Fuel and lubrication management in a low-sulphur environment

The International Maritime Organization’s 0.50% global sulphur cap – effective 1 January 2020 – is already significantly impacting the industry, reshaping the fuels landscape and changing lubricant requirements. 

This regulatory amendment will see fuel suppliers develop new formulations and force vessel operators to reconsider their marine fuel choices. Vessel operators must also ensure they select lubricants that not only deliver maximum protection for efficient engine operations but also minimise maintenance and costly downtime.

These changes can have far-reaching financial impacts, so procurement professionals must fully understand the ramifications of their fuel selections and how to curtail the potential cost risks. Crucially, they must ensure alignment of internal KPIs from both a financial and technical perspective and understand how fuel choices ahead of 2020 may affect these. 

The fuel landscape continues to evolve, creating various routes to compliance. Each option needs careful consideration and the most effective option will be based on an evaluation made for each vessel type, route, age, engine and cost. 

If a low-sulphur fuel is the chosen route, vessel operators will almost certainly encounter challenges when they make the change. Fuel quality issues include problems with stability and cat fines. As operators bunker new streams from different sources with so many different formulations, compatibility problems will likely become far more prevalent than experienced today. 

Changing emissions regulations are not only affecting fuel selection for most operators but are also creating engine oil challenges. Selecting the right lubricants to cope with the changing fuel mix and evolving engine designs is crucial for maintaining efficient engine operations, minimising costly maintenance-related issues and optimising lubricant usage. 

To ensure correct engine oil selection, procurement staff should work closely with their engineers to align technical requirements with any financial concerns, and with their suppliers to identify the engine oil that works best with a vessel’s fuel selection. 

More than ever, ensuring a collaborative approach across the business, from engineer to procurement, is crucial for any vessel operator. Working with a fuel and lubricant supplier that has a track record of delivering fully integrated marine industry solutions can provide the platform to successfully meet today’s challenges.

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