One of the key concerns related to the introduction of the IMO’s low sulfur fuel regulations in 2020 related the quality and consistency of compliant fuels. Bunker fuel producers worked to develop VLSFO blends while shippers made plans for the switch from HSFO to VLSFO while carefully monitoring vessel and machinery performance.
Fuel management provider Integr8 is out with a new report looking at the issues with HSFO and VLSFO from the lead up to the new regulations and the ten months since the regulations went into effect. Over the past year, Integr8 reports that it accumulated the results of over 75,000 test results to look at the key fuel quality developments comparing VLSFO and HSFO.
The data shows that in the past year the share of HSFO off-specs increased, overtaking VLSFO, which in turn saw a decrease, according to Integr8. “The severity of VLSFO off-specs also decreased, while increasing for HSFO. Out of the four bunker hubs analyzed, currently ARA has the highest probability of VLSFO and HSFO off-specs,” reports the fuel management provider.
“Prior to the IMO2020 switch, it was widely expected that VLSFO would turn out to be more problematic than HSFO and this was indeed the case early in the transition. Given that VLSFO producers had to hone their blending recipes, the share of VLSFO off-specs stood at 5.1 percent on average between November 2019 and January 2020, almost double the HSFO share,” the analysis says.
As the year went by and producers gained more experience with VLSFO, the reduction in the share of off-specs followed. On the other hand, and quite unexpectedly, Integr8 says the share of HSFO off-specs steadily increased, currently standing higher than VLSFO.
The fuel quality data also shows that it is not only the share of VLSFO off-specs that decreased but also the severity. In VLSFO there has been a steady reduction in the prevalence of sulfur and TSP (a measure of fuel stability) off-specs, which are critical quality parameters, while HSFO shows a very different trend. Both sulfur and TSP off-specs are on the rise, mostly driven by TSP.
While the above changes are good news for the VLSFO users, HSFO buyers should be aware of the rising TSP off-specs. Integr8 also cautions to watch out for VLSFO and HSFO quality issues varying by different parts of the globe. For example, they report that while the share of VLSFO off-specs in ARA dropped in August – October, it remains much higher than in the other ports and above the global average.
“Overall, it has been an interesting year when it comes to bunker fuel quality and despite the initial concerns the IMO2020 transition generally went well,” concludes Integr8 Fuels. They said they will continue to monitor and report on any significant fuel quality trends.
Integr8 Fuels complete analysis of the trends in fuel quality in the past year is available for download.