ExxonMobil survey reveals no clear route to compliance with 2020 global sulphur cap

A marine industry survey conducted by ExxonMobil finds that the route to compliance with the International Maritime Organization (IMO) 2020 0.5% global sulphur cap is unclear for many vessel operators.

Results highlight an ongoing sense of confusion and lack of preparedness, with 70% of respondents saying that they do not believe the industry is ready for the deadline. The makeup of the marine fuel mix in 2020 and beyond is a clear area of concern, with wide-ranging views from the industry on how the landscape will evolve.

Thirty two per cent of those surveyed predict that a combination of heavy fuel oil, marine gas oil and fuels and blends will be used, while 69% believe the cap will lead to the development of new low sulphur fuels.

“At ExxonMobil we expect that new 0.5% fuel formulations will emerge, based on low sulphur refinery streams, in addition to novel fuel blends,” said Iain White, Global Marine Marketing Manager at ExxonMobil.

“As a result, it’s likely we will see increased compatibility and stability problems, which will make purchasing fuels from a trusted supplier more important than ever.”

The cost implications of the cap were also highlighted as a potential challenge; with 53% of respondents predicting an increase in fuel spend.

When asked about the uptake of liquefied natural gas (LNG), 31% of respondents believe there will be a growth in its adoption as a marine fuel. These findings align with ExxonMobil’s 2017 Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040, which predicts that by 2040 global LNG consumption will rise to more than two and a half times the 2015 level.

Forty five per cent of respondents predict an increased investment in abatement technologies (scrubbers). However, only 11% said they were actively looking to install a scrubber before 2020, with 40% citing a lack of economic clarity as a reason for forgoing investment.

“The results of this survey show that that we are heading to a multi-fuel future and that there is not one obvious fuel solution that will apply to all vessels,” said Mr White.

“To avoid the pitfalls that may lie ahead, it’s vital that operators work closely with trusted fuel suppliers to ensure that they select the best route to compliance for their vessel’s needs.”