What are Marine Fuels?
Marine fuels, or bunker fuels, are the primary energy source for the shipping industry. The market totals about 300 million mt/year worldwide, almost all of which is for refined oil products. Historically high sulfur fuel oil has been the dominant marine fuel, with cleaner marine gasoil used in port, but tightening emissions regulations for shipping have fragmented the market. The main marine fuel types are as follows:
High sulfur fuel oil (HSFO) – 3.5% sulfur fuel oil. The main type of HSFO currently used by the shipping industry has a viscosity of 380 CST, but 180 CST, 500 CST, and 700 CST grades are also widely used. From the start of 2020, the sulfur content in HSFO will be too high to comply with the new 0.5% global limit, but vessels equipped with emissions-cleaning scrubber equipment will be able to continue using it.
Marine gasoil (MGO) – A middle distillate product similar to heating oil. The sulfur content is typically 0.1% but varies worldwide according to local laws. In the past, MGO was mainly used only in port, but demand increased in 2015 as emission control areas (ECAs) in North America and Northwest Europe reduced their sulfur limit to 0.1%.
Ultra-low-sulfur fuel oil (ULSFO) – Distillate-based fuel blends designed as a cheaper 0.1% sulfur alternative to MGO for use in the ECAs.
0.5% sulfur fuels – New 0.5% sulfur blends being designed for use worldwide once the global sulfur limit drops to that level in January 2020. A wide range of these blends is likely to emerge with varying specifications.