In 2020, change is coming to the industry with new global sulphur limits for bunker fuel as a result of the IMO’s MARPOL Annex VI regulation. The regulation will see new, lower, limits being implemented, affecting over 3 million bpd of residual fuel oil (resid). Uncertainty over whether this change was coming has existed for years, so the clarity now provided is a relief for many. But what will the key impact of the MARPOL Bunker Fuel Regulation be and what challenges and opportunities could arise from it?
The new regulation will lower global sulfur limits for bunker fuel. From the current 3.5%, when the regulation comes into effect in 2020, this limit will be reduced to 0.5%. The demand for high-sulfur resid for ship bunkers reached 95.4 million b/d of total oil demand in 2016 and so the regulation is likely to have an impact on refiners in regions all over the world, as well as on crude producers, bunker suppliers and shipping lines. According to an analysis by Concawe, out of approx. 30 million t of bunker fuels that will be consumed in Europe in 2020, only 3 million t will remain high-sulphur, the rest will be residual fuel with a sulphur content of up to 0.5% (8 – 13 million t) or marine gas oil (13 – 19 million t).
For the MARPOL Bunker Fuel Regulation to have any real impact, enforcement of breaches of its requirements is going to have to be strict. Risk-free non-compliance as a result of inadequate detection methods, few sanctions and a lack of robust legal framework is a serious cause for concern. Currently, no global entity is responsible for enforcement or sanctions, as these are made locally and could differ significantly from one location to the next, making consistent and effective enforcement a real challenge.
As a leading independent consulting company focused on the refining industry, Euro Petroleum Consultants (EPC) pays close attention to the discussions that accompany the enforcement of these regulations. Stefan Chapman, Vice President, Euro Petroleum Consultants says “With 2020 just around the corner meeting the new IMO requirement is a big challenge for both the refining and shipping industries. For refiners it is already late in the day for any important residue upgrading investments not already in the works to come on stream by 2020 – so what are the alternative solutions and what will happen to the HSFO currently being produced by refiners for bunker fuel?”
On 17th January 2019 in London, Euro Petroleum Consultants