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Bunker testing company VPS sees wide range of 0.5% S fuel viscosity

Amsterdam — Bunker testing laboratory VPS has seen a wide viscosity range in the samples it has seen so far of new cleaner marine fuel blends for use when the International Maritime Organization's global sulfur limit drops to 0.5% next year, the company said Thursday.

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Fuel incompatibility is one of the larger logistical challenges facing the shipping industry next year. Most new 0.5% sulfur blends are likely to prove mutually incompatible, meaning that they are prone to separation when brought into contact with one another, risking engine failures.

The IMO's regulations specify only the sulfur content and not other specifications. Refiners and suppliers are blending a wide range of components to produce new 0.5% sulfur fuels while minimizing the premium to fuel oil prices.

That has resulted in widely differing fuel qualities in the samples sent to testing companies so far, VPS commercial and business development director Steve Bee said at the S&P Global Platts European bunker fuel conference in Amsterdam.

Of the samples seen by VPS in the first quarter this year, Bee said, viscosity has ranged from 37-342 CST, density has ranged from 909-988 kg/cu m and catalytic fines have ranged from 2-59 ppm. 91% of these samples came from Asia, the Middle East and Africa, he said, reflecting the fact that 0.5% sulfur fuels are already in use in Chinese territorial waters.

-- Jack Jordan, jack.jordan@spglobal.com; Tamara Sleiman, tamara.sleiman@spglobal.com, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Edited by James Burgess, newsdesk@spglobal.com