2020: fuel oil will have nowhere to go (file image/pixabay)
Despite predictions that up to a fifth of global fleet could have scrubber technology installed within seven years, the number of units active by the start of 2020 is unlikely to match the expected excess supply of fuel oil.
According to price-reporting agency Argus Media, the scrubber count to date is 842, a more conserative number than other estimates. And it is a number that is "insufficient to absorb a projected surplus in high-sulphur residual fuel oil in 2020".
The global fleet comprises around 50,000 vessels. The three main ship types -- tankers, boxships and bulkers -- account for around 80% of residual fuel oil demand, Argus said citing a US study.
More tankers have opted for scrubber installations over cruiseships; Argus puts the tally at 190 tankers with scrubbers to 174 installed on cruise liners.
But these numbers make little difference when set against global fuel oil demand from shipping which is put at around 210 million metric tonnes.
Tankers with scrubbers account for 5% of the global tanker fleet, Argus said.
For reference, crude oil tankers make up around 15% of the global fleet. From January 1 2020, ships must use 0.5% bunker fuel unless they have scrubber units installed in which case they can continue to burn high sulfur residual fuel and be in compliance with the new ruling.