Half of all heavy fuel oil (HFO) samples drawn from Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Antwerp port were above the 2020 0.5% sulphur limit, a survey by lubricant OEM Infineum found. “All of the fuels sampled in this year’s survey met today’s 3.5% m/m maximum global sulphur limit. However, 50% were above the 2020 0.5% m/m limit. Unsurprisingly, all of the samples above the future limit were residual fuels,” the report states.
Francesca Cupellini, fuels market development advisor at Infineum, commented: “While the results are not a concern at present, they do indicate that there is still significant work to be done by industry. A number of refiners will likely need to make considerable investments in a relatively short timeframe in order for their fuels to meet the new sulphur limits in 2020.”
The report goes on saying that “if, for example, most ship owners opt to use low sulphur fuels, demand for HFO could fall, which could make the investment in scrubbing equipment sensible. On the other hand, if most ship owners fit scrubbers, HFO demand will be maintained and the price difference between the two fuels would be expected to narrow. This is an interesting dilemma, and one that ship owners must resolve relatively quickly”.
If demand shifts to lower sulphur fuel, Europe’s HFO surplus and middle distillate shortfall is likely to be further impacted, the report states. “On the flip side, refineries in the Middle East and Asia Pacific could benefit from the fast introduction of the new cap, potentially finding new customers for their middle distillate exports at European ports. Refiners hoping to export fuels into the European bunker market will need to not only meet the ISO 8217 standard for fuel quality, but will also need to be aware of the specific local requirements of individual countries.”