IMO 2020 Global Sulfur Cap

Global Sufur Cap

ABS Issues Marine Fuel Oil Advisory

The ABS Marine Fuel Oil Advisory details the implications of different marine fuels, allowing owners and operators to make smarter decisions on the future of their fleets. Furthermore, the Advisory provides in-depth technical guidance covering a range of topics, from engine considerations to fuel properties to operational risks.

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The most significant regulation for air emissions is the upcoming IMO Global Sulfur Cap. SOx emissions are based on the level of sulfur content in the fuel used. To achieve a reduction of SOx and particulate matter in the environment, the use of low sulfur fuel will be globally mandatory in 2020 unless alternative technology such as an Exhaust Gas Cleaning System (scrubber) is being used. As agreed at the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) 70, the sulfur cap will go into effect beginning January 1, 2020.

All vessels that operate outside Emission Control Areas (ECAs) will be required to use fuel oil with a maximum sulfur content of 0.5% while vessels operating within ECAs will be required to use fuel oil with a maximum sulfur content of 0.10%. 

Shipowners and operators have various options to meet the IMO sulfur cap requirements. These options include the use of compliant low sulfur fuels or alternative fuels such as liquified natural gas (LNG), liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG), biofuel, solar power or fuel cells. SOx also can be controlled by using an alternative technology such as an exhaust gas cleaning system.

Vessel owners and operators will have to consider a wide-variety of factors when choosing their compliance solution including the vessel age, operating and capital costs, fuel availability, technology solution availability and reliability and the primary trading areas.


Why Work with ABS for Air Emissions Compliance?

As a third party, ABS can provide objective input about the available technologies and alternative fuels for specific vessel types. Regulations are becoming stricter, and the best compliance solutions involve far more than purchasing a new system or alternative fuel. To find the most cost-effective approaches, shipowners and operators must tailor their compliance solutions to their fleet.

Solutions need to be viable and sustainable in the long-term. ABS is an industry leader in the marine and offshore sectors with decades of experience providing vessel operators with the technical and operational support necessary to successfully comply with regulations.


Low Sulfur Cap Distillate Fuels (Marine Gas Oil)

Sulfur Cap Compliance Options

Ships can meet SOx emission requirements by using low sulfur compliant fuel oil. Marine Gas Oil exclusively consists of a blend of distillates, and its emissions contain significantly less PM, soot and SOx emissions. Though shipowners and operators may worry about fuel costs, ultra-low sulfur ECA compliant fuels are readily available and have few limitations.

However, there are several issues related to the distillation and desulfurization process that must be taken into consideration when burning marine gas oil (MGO) in engines originally designed for use with heavy residual oils.

Heavy Fuel Oil has been the most common and widely available type of marine fuel for many years. With the increased focus on sustainability, however, the environmental disadvantages of HFO have come into focus.

As the Global Sulfur Cap comes into place, owners and operators who choose to continue using HFO will need to install an Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems (EGCS), commonly known as a scrubber. These systems are designed to remove air pollutants from the exhaust gas. The exhaust can be treated with different substances including sea water, fresh water or dry chemicals. After treating the exhaust, the EGCS creates a waste stream that requires disposal.

More vessel owners and operators are using LNG as fuel. Though LNG-fueled marine vessels are relatively new, the LNG industry is well-established. In the past, LNG as fuel has been limited by a lack of infrastructure, low oil prices, the capital costs of retrofitting older ships to burn LNG. Also, since LNG has a lower energy density compared to conventional fuel oils, the onboard volume required for the bunker tanks can be as high as four times that required for HFO.

As the global sulfur cap approaches, however, more shipowners are seeing LNG as a cost-effective compliance option - especially for new construction.

Ethane, methanol and compressed natural gas (CNG) are other alternative fuel sources that can support compliance with the Global Sulfur Cap. Though none of these gases are currently common sources of fuel in the marine industry, emerging technologies may make the gases’ usage more common in the future.

There are many other compliance solutions for meeting air emission requirements. Vessel operators may use biofuels, hydrogen or other propulsion options like fuel cells, renewable energy, superconducting electric motors and hybrid propulsion. While many of these options are less established, ABS continues to lead the marine and offshore industry with innovative research and development for marine applications.


Techno Economic Analysis for Fuel Strategy

The ABS techno-economic evaluation is a tool to provide support to clients in their decision-making for the best air emissions compliance options for their vessel or fleet.

These techno-economic models are tailored to the vessel’s technical specification and operational characteristics providing insight into equipment selection and strategic business planning of a vessel.

When deciding the best technical and compliance solution, no one solution fits all vessel types. Operators must carefully weigh their decisions and any tradeoffs involved with each option.

This analysis can be done on any type of vessel, for one or an entire fleet. If it is a newbuild or existing asset, a retrofit or new design, the techno-economic analysis will leverage ABS’ extensive knowledge to provide technical guidance and detailed recommendations.


A significant portion of the maritime industry considers compliant fuel the preferred solution for the 2020 Global Sulfur Cap. ABS offers a suite of compliant fuel support services for owners and operators at any stage on the compliance journey. Once the decision to use a compliant fuel is made, it is important for owners and operators to understand fuel availability and the operational impacts of each type of fuel.

The ABS Operational Assessment is a comprehensive review of the vessel or fleet that addresses operational issues and provides owners and operators with the necessary information to develop an IMO-recommended Ship Implementation Plan (SIP).

Having a SIP in place will help owners consistently implement their fuel strategy by effectively procuring and managing fuels. ABS can help owners develop a SIP or validate an existing SIP.

ABS also can issue a Statement of Fact document to validate that the chosen tank cleaning criteria was met.

Scrubber Support Services

Once the decision to use a scrubber has been made, it is important for owners and operators to understand the available technology, life-cycle costs and operational impacts of each type of scrubber being considered.

Before selecting a scrubber for your fleet, it is critically important to identify the best options based on specific vessel and operational characteristics. To inform the scrubber selection process, ABS offers a technology evaluation that helps shortlist the most suitable scrubber options.

Once a scrubber has been selected, installing a scrubber onboard introduces changes that can impact fuel supply, equipment and operating procedures, adding a new element of complexity and risk to your operations. Through a hazard identification (HAZID) and hazard and operability (HAZOP) workshop, ABS can help you identify and mitigate risks to your operations. The interactive workshop, facilitated by ABS, brings together key stakeholders, including the vessel owner/operator and scrubber manufacturer.

Whether you are just starting to explore approved scrubber systems, or you have a system selected or you have already installed a scrubber, ABS provides a comprehensive suite of guidance and solutions to help you every step of the way.