Global marine fuel test data provided to the IMO’s sulphur monitoring programme shows a slight year-on-year increase in average sulphur content of residual fuel oils from 2.58% in 2016 to 2.60% in 2017. In 2015, the average was 2.45% sulphur. The average sulphur content of distillate fuel oils, meanwhile, has been unchanged at 0.08% through 2015, 2016 and 2017.
The results of IMO’s sulphur monitoring programme are reported annually to the Marine Environment Protection Committee. The results for 2017 reported to MEPC 72 were based on 141,175 residual fuel oil samples accounting for a total of 121,428,910 tonnes supplied for use on board ships. The total number of distillate fuel samples tested was 72,286, corresponding to 12,173,450 tonnes supplied to ships.
Only 0.33% of the tested residual fuel oils exceeded 3.50% sulphur, the current global limit, down from 0.53% in 2016.
Speaking at MEPC 72, one member state noted that prior to the global limit falling from 4.5 to 3.50% sulphur, only 13% of all residual fuels in the IMO sulphur monitoring programme tested above the new limit. By contrast, only 1.6% of the residual fuels tested in 2017 were below 0.50%. The member state said this suggests that by 2020, some 98% of the current fuel supply needs to change.
Last year, IBIA analysis of the 2016 IMO sulphur monitoring data noted that the share of residual fuel oil testing at or below 0.50% sulphur was only 1.81% while a further 3.25% of the samples tested in the 0.50% to 1.00% sulphur range, suggesting that supply of residual fuel meeting the upcoming 0.50% sulphur limit without significant blending is very limited. The corresponding figures for 2017 were 1.61% at or below 0.50% and 3.34% in the 0.50% to 1.00% sulphur range.
For distillates, 95.02% of the tested fuel was below 0.10% m/m sulphur content, meaning the vast majority of distillate fuels supplied would meet the emission control area (ECA) sulphur limit.
The IMO sulphur monitoring report, using data provided by Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Veritas Petroleum Services B.V and Viswa Lab, showed that the average stem sizes in 2017 were 860 tonnes for residual fuel oil and 168 tonnes for distillates.