IBIA Reports Rise in Average Residual Fuel Sulphur Content

The yearly average sulfur content of tested residual fuel oils increased to 2.58% in 2016, up by 0.13% from 2.45% in 2015, according to data provided by the International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA) to the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Of the 143,141 samples tested by four providers of sampling and testing services, 0.53% exceeded the current 3.50% sulfur limit applying outside emission control areas (ECAs). The share of samples testing at or below 0.50% sulfur, meanwhile, was 1.81%.

The sulfur distribution showed that 3.25% of the samples tested in the 0.50% to 1.00% sulfur range, 3.86% tested in the 1.00% to 1.50% sulfur range and 7.57% tested in the 1.50% to 2.00% sulphur range.

“The test data suggest that supply of residual fuel meeting the upcoming 0.50% sulfur limit without significant blending is very limited,” the association pointed out.

The vast majority of the residual fuel oil samples tested between 2.00% and 3.50% sulfur, with 20.83% testing in the 2.00% to 2.50% sulfur range, 29.91% testing in the 2.50% to 3.00% sulfur range and 32.23% testing in the 3.00% to 3.50% sulfur range.

The 143,141 samples tested were taken from a total of 123,171,609 tons (123 million) of residual fuel oil supplied for use on board ships, giving an average stem size of 860 tons. Both the quantity and number of samples tested in 2016 was higher than in 2015 when the sulfur average was based on 131,160 test results taken from 114,344,642 tons of residual fuel oil supplied to ships, however, the average stem size in 2015 was higher at 872 tons, IBIA’s data shows.

As for distillate fuels, data provided to IMO showed no change in the sulfur average from 2015, holding at 0.08%. The share of tested distillate fuels meeting the 0.10% sulfur ECA limit was 93.71%, while 0.82% of the samples tested exceeded 0.50% sulfur.

IBIA concluded that the vast majority of tested distillate fuels meet a 0.10% sulfur limit and have done so since before the 2015 drop in the ECA limit. In addition, tested quantity of distillate fuels has more than doubled from around 4 million tons in 2014 to around 11 million tons in 2015 and 2016.

The number of distillate samples tested has increased from around 38,000 in 2014 to almost 72,000 in 2016. The test data indicate a reduction in average stem sizes for both residual fuel oil and distillate fuels in 2016, to 860 tons and 158 tons, respectively.

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