IMO2020 Bunker Fuel Patents a "Marketing Ploy"

Thursday June 13, 2019

Suppliers should not be concerned about recent patents on bunker fuels and associated products sparking a patent war over IMO2020 grade fuel, delegates gathered for the 16th Annual Bunker and Residual Fuel Conference in Houston were told today.

Many suppliers have been notably secretive about how they are making their IMO2020 grade fuels ahead of the new sulfur cap, with some going as far as taking out patents on their products.

But Michael Winstone, Vice President, Freepoint Commodities, told delegates he thought the moves were nothing more than a marketing ploy.

"If you're going to take a bunker barrel that I'm going to deliver to you and deconstruct it and say I breached your patent, I'll see you in court, good luck. Don't waste you time," he said.

"I'm not remotely concerned about it."

Taking a different view on the matter was Michael J. Moore, Chief Executive Officer, Rigby Refining, who noted that Exxon has recently been granted related patents including one for producing a blend stock, while Shell has patented residual and distillate blends.

"Those patents are there and they are worth reading," he said.

"It's something we think the industry is not really aware of."

That said, Winstone said his firm had received one legal opinion suggesting the patents may be anti-competitive.

"My personal opinion is Hydrocarbons are hydrocarbons," he said.

"If you think that you can somehow have a monopoly or a patent on how you compile those together in a blend of ship fuel, I'm just not a believer."