ECA Still Not Enough, Says California, as State Fuel Switching Regs Set to Remain in Place for Another 2 Years

Thursday April 14, 2016

The California Air Resources Board (ARB) has announced that it has determined that the North American Emissions Control Area (ECA) alone is not currently likely achieve sufficient emission reductions within Regulated California Waters, and as such, the California Ocean-Going Vessel (OGV) Fuel Regulation will remain in place for at least another two years.

The California OGV Fuel Regulation is specifically a distillate fuel switching requirement and is in effect within 24 nautical miles (nm) of the state's coast.

Unlike the ECA, it does not have wording to allow for equivalent methods of compliance such as the use of scrubbers, nor does it permit the use of so-called hybrid fuels that meet the 0.10 percent sulfur limit but do not meet the specification for marine gas oil (MGO) or marine diesel oil (MDO) - although such ECA compliant options can be accommodated through a "Temporary Experimental and Research Exemption" that can be granted to operators who notify ARB prior to entering California regulated waters.

"A two-year period will allow for the federal enforcement program to become established," said ARB.

"Furthermore, it will allow time for ARB staff to examine the results of planned contractor emissions testing to inform our evaluation of the potential emissions impacts from vessels complying with the ECA through the use of alternative technologies, such as exhaust gas scrubbers, and low sulfur heavy fuel oils."

ARB says factors leading to the decision included: Differences in the overwater boundaries of the North American ECA Regulation and the California OGV Fuel Regulation; California impacts due to exemptions granted under International Maritime Organization Regulation 3 which provides temporary exemptions from the fuel sulfur requirements; Relative emissions from compliance options allowed under the ECA (e.g. low sulfur heavy fuels and scrubbers), but not directly allowed under the California OGV Fuel Regulation; and Differences in the State and federal enforcement programs.

The regulation does include a provision that will see the requirements of the California OGV Fuel Regulation cease to apply until the Executive Officer issues written findings that the U.S. has implemented requirements that will achieve equivalent emissions reductions.

ARB says it will continue to work with both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to ensure a smooth transition to the ECA program alone.

In November, ARB told Ship & Bunker that the vast majority of vessels burning ULSFO are not in compliance with regulations mandating a maximum 0.10 percent sulfur content for marine fuel.