A great deal of coverage has been given to the availability or otherwise of different fuel types after 2020. Much less thought seems to have been given to how the lubrication of marine engines will be affected and what practical steps need to be taken by shipowners and operators. Shell Marine’s post-2020 cylinder oil expectations are based on a defined position on marine fuel use after the IMO’s cap on sulphur content comes into play.

The choice of cylinder oil is typically determined by three factors: the marine engine itself; the fuel being used; and the vessel’s operating conditions. Given this, the limitation of sulphur content to 0.5% in marine fuel from 2020 by the International Maritime Organization will have a significant impact on cylinder oil selection.

Shipowners should by now be some way to determining what their reaction to the new situation will be, although many seem to be still in the process of defining a plan or are waiting for the situation to crystalise. Shell Marine’s expectation is that 90% or more of the shipping fleet will switch to fuels with a sulphur level of <0.5% in the run up to January 2020. This will be a mixture of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) and distillate fuels.

We believe that fewer than 2,000 ships will be fitted with scrubbers to continue running on HSFO by that date and that, with a high-end estimate of 200 ships running on LNG, combined no more than 10% of ships will be accounted for by HSHFO, LNG or any other alternative. Our expectation is that up to 3 million b/d of HSFO demand will be displaced by <0.5% sulphur content fuels.

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