IMO2020: Tank Cleaning Not Enough to Ensure Compliance When Switching to Low Sulfur Bunkers

Thursday September 13, 2018

Vessels choosing to switch to low sulfur bunkers as part of their IMO 2020 compliance strategy will need a shift in thinking on what sulfur compliance means, says ExxonMobil.

"Sulfur level is usually managed though the delivery ticket that comes from the supplier and checked against the continuous drip sample taken from the manifold. For IMO 2020, as it is now for the ECA rules, compliance will be checked at the engine inlet manifold. For this reason checks will need to be made where it gets used on the ship to ensure compliance. This doesn't typically happen today" Iain White, Global Field Engineering Manager at ExxonMobil, recently told Ship & Bunker.

What this means in practice is that a vessel holding compliant fuel in its tanks is not guaranteed to be operating in accordance with the new rule in case of sulphur contamination.

"This means tank cleaning will be very important ahead of 2020, as you cannot rely on the first batch of compliant fuel to flush the system effectively. This is because compliant fuels are likely to be very close to the new 0.50% specification, meaning any contamination with the old fuel could put the vessel off spec," Armelle Breneol, Marine Fuels Technical Advisor for Europe at ExxonMobil, told Ship & Bunker.

As part of its recent updates to its Mobil Serv Cylinder Condition Monitoring (CCM) service, ExxonMobil now enables its customers to take sulfur samples with lab accuracy onboard the vessel.

"Even if the tanks are cleaned correctly, there is going to be a period of time with the first batch of fuel going through where there is the risk of accidental non-compliance," said Breneol.

"The fuel in the tanks will be compliant, but at the engine inlet may not be. This is why the CCM's sulfur test will be very helpful for the crew onboard."

ExxonMobil says it will have its 0.50% products available to the market ahead of January 1, 2020 deadline with announcements to follow.

While the exact timing is yet to be finalized, Breneol says they will be available with "enough time to ensure a smooth transition."