Lubricants Flexibility is the Answer to IMO 2020 Uncertainty: Chevron

Monday September 24, 2018

With the reality of a global 0.50% sulfur cap on marine fuel not much more than a year away, one of the few things the industry seems to agree on is the huge level of uncertainty the inevitable upheaval is causing.

Even aspects such as HSFO demand, which until recently was thought to be fairly well understood, over recent months has been thrown into doubt.

The only answer to this uncertainty is flexibility, says Chevron Marine Lubricants, who has used this philosophy to update its product range ahead of the IMO 2020 rule.

"The goal is to provide the lubricants our customers want, when they want them across the whole network, providing the flexibility needed with the huge uncertainly in what fuels will be available.. In response, we've changed our formulation and the products to provide the flexibility that the shipping industry will need post 2020," says Chevron Marine Lubricants brand and marketing manager, Ian Thurloway, who spoke to Ship & Bunker ahead of the product range's official launch earlier this month.

"The changes go beyond just the product makeup. We have changed how we distribute, store, and blend them to give us the flexibility to cope with whatever the customers ultimately need. That's the driving force behind doing this: We want to make sure everyone is covered whichever way they choose to go on IMO 2020, and they have both choice and reliability."

In terms of what lubricants ships will be using in the future, Thurloway says vessels operating in emissions control areas (ECAs) will continue to burn 0.10% sulfur fuel and use a 25BN or 40BN lubricant.

Outside of those zones, ships burning inherently compliant 0.50% sulfur fuels - be they distillate, hybrid, or a true VLSFO blend in nature - will all need to use a 40BN product.

Vessels equipped with scrubbers that can continue to burn HSFO will use 100BN or 140BN products.

Another change expected for 2020 is not only the types of fuels being purchased, but where vessels are lifting them.

"Singapore is the world's biggest bunkering port and while we don't expect that to be any different in 2020, there will be some change in where products are lifted," says Thurloway.

"With that demand change we want to create flexibility for our customers so they don't have to worry about their lubes and they can focus on sourcing the right fuel, at the right time, at the right place."

Higher Sulfur, Alternative Fuels

Another unknown surrounding the fuels picture is whether we will start to see higher viscosity, higher sulfur bunkers emerge in the post 2020 market.

"With no 3.5% sulfur cap after 2020, there is good reason to think higher sulfur HSFO products will appear. Scrubber equipped vessels will be able to handle them and the pricing will likely be attractive vs their 380cSt counterparts," says Thurloway.

"While we don't know when, or if that will happen, we already have that eventuality covered as we know our Taro Ultra140 product can go higher than 3.5% sulfur fuels. We have real world cases where ships have been using it alongside high sulfur fuels being burned with very slow steaming speeds and its been working very well."

The key to effective use in such operating conditions is getting the correct feed rate, he stresses, highlighting the use of the firm's DOT.FAST service to help customers do just that.

"We also have regional customer service and technical people there to deal with technical problems and any 'unknown unknowns' that may come up," he adds.

In addition to conventional oil based bunkers, IMO 2020 has also boosted interest in the use of alternative fuels such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) bunkers.

"A small but growing subset of vessels are running on alternatives such as LNG and methanol, and we are experienced and ready with our lubes for those too," Chia Yoo Soon, General Manager at Chevron Marine Lubricants, told Ship & Bunker.

"We are lube provider to the biggest fleet of methanol burning ships out there and all lower BN products have been tested in LNG vessels as well."

Economics are the main driver for how people will ultimately comply with the IMO 2020 rule, says Yoo Soon, and that means the choices people make could change very quickly.

"Right now people are bullish on HSFO + scrubbers, so that should mean more HSFO post 2020. But we are ensuring we're ready with a lubes solution, available in the right places for every type of fuel eventuality. It is a total solution to help total cost of ownership," he says.

"We want to provide reliability and flexibility no matter what happens."

Chevron Marine Lubricants is rolling out its new product range throughout 2019.