22 Oct 2019

Intertek's outlook on the introduction of 0.50% m/m Sulphur Fuels in Africa and opportunities in the Bunker Industry

Limiting the sulphur content of fuels used within the marine industry has been an ongoing initiative to regulate the emission levels produced by sea going vessels. Since the initial implementation of the 4.50% m/m global sulphur cap in 2005 legislation has continuously developed to support the efforts to reduce emissions from vessels with the last step in the legislative reforms set out by Marpol Annex VI being implemented as of the 1st January 2020.

In the build up to the 1st January we have seen an inherent change in the marine fuel supply chain with suppliers bringing new 0.50% m/m sulphur fuels, or VLSFOs, to the market in order to satisfy demand for greater quantities of low sulphur product before the end of the year.  

In certain cases, these "new" fuels have been derived directly from low sulphur feedstocks whilst others have been produced by blending high sulphur products with a low sulphur blend / cutter stock to achieve a product with a sulphur content that will comply with the new regulation.

In certain quarters questions have been raised in relation to the inherent underlying quality of these "blended" products which has been based on previous experience of past legislative reform and some of the products used to comply with the restrictions.

Significant problems were seen in relation to the blended 1.00% m/m sulphur fuels used for compliance with ECAs (Emission Control Areas) prior to the 1st January 2015. These fuels demonstrated underlying issues with stability, incompatibility, low flash point as well as higher levels of cat fines.

In looking at the step change from 3.50% m/m fuels to 0.50% m/m fuels there are a great many factors that both fuel suppliers and buyers must consider when looking at the requirements for 2020.

Fuel suppliers must consider:

  • Expectations of fuel buyers
  • Maintaining QC procedures during fuel production
  • Best practice guidance for the assurance of quality throughout the supply chain

Whilst fuel purchasers have to look at considerations such as:

  • Onboard storage – particularly in relation to Cold flow properties
  • Handling / treatment requirements
  • Segregation of fuels – will compatibility of fuels pose a problem
  • Long term storage

In recent months a number of industry publications have been made available looking specifically at the expected changes and how this will impact all stakeholders within the supply chain.

In addition, the recently published ISO/PAS 23263 -  Petroleum products — Fuels (class F) — Considerations for fuel suppliers and users regarding marine fuel quality in view of the implementation of maximum 0,50 % sulfur in 2020 – has been designed to act as a bridge, prior to the publication of the next ISO 8217 standard, to offer guidance to fuel buyers and suppliers to ease the reservations about the new legislation.


Neville Joseph,
Regional Operations Manager


Neville Joseph is a professional in the oil and gas industry with more than 25 years' experience in the field. He has experience throughout the Africa region specializing in shipping operations. Neville holds a certification International Federation of Inspection Agencies (IFIA) and heads up many large-scale operations for oil majors in the region. Neville has knowledge about the latest trends and legislations in the Petrochemical, Petroleum & Crude Oil industry and is constantly empowering himself as a result.