A consistent reduction in the quality of fuels available to ship owners, the need to comply with IMO and EU regulations on sulphur content and the adoption of slow steaming have created a ‘perfect storm’ of operational and compliance requirements, according to Jonas Östlund, Product Marketing Manager, Marine Chemicals, WSS.
Taken together, he says these changes will have a profound impact over the next 10 to 15 years as refinery output shifts towards new fuels and the next wave of pollution regulations begins to bite.
“The pressure to increase efficiency and reduce operating costs is bringing speeds down across the industry. But because few engines were built to operate at slow speeds, the result can be poor combustion and reduced efficiency. Such problems are exacerbated by the decline in quality of blended marine fuel which often exhibits very poor stability,” said Mr Östlund.
At the same time, regulations are driving owners to use lower sulphur fuels. In four years’ time, the IMO will decide whether to apply a cap of 0.5% maximum sulphur by 2020 or 2025. Inside the three existing Emission Control Areas (ECAs), maximum sulphur content must be no more than 0.1% after 1 January 2015.
But even if owners accept the 50% price differential in switching from residual fuel to cleaner distillates, these ultra-low sulphur fuels are no panacea, says Mr Östlund.
“Quality problems when using distillate fuels are fundamentally different from those of residual fuels and focus around lubricity, storage stability and microbial contamination. Lubricity problems are most likely to happen in the fuels with a lower sulphur content than 0.1%,” he added.
For owners who want to protect their investments, many of these issues can be solved by chemical treatment, which has proved to be an economical solution for improving the quality of fuel by increasing its stability to a more reliable level.
In a White Paper published by WSS, Mr Östlund argues that testing and treatment are vital for owners who want to remain compliant and efficient.