The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a final rule that revises US diesel fuel regulations to align them with the IMO 2020 requirements for marine fuels
The move is to ensure that US refiners and suppliers can distribute cleaner global marine fuel for use in ships operating outside of the Emission Control Areas (ECA) along the US coastline.
The amendments to the diesel fuel regulations will allow fuel suppliers to distribute distillate diesel fuel that complies with the IMO 2020 international sulphur standard for ships. At present, a 0.1% sulphur fuel standard applies to distillate diesel fuel in US ECAs.
This new sulphur limit is less stringent than the 1,000 ppm limit that applies in designated US ECAs (in effect since 2015), but is more stringent than the global limit of 0.5% sulphur in marine fuel coming into effect in January 2020.
The international sulphur content limit for fuel used outside ECAs is currently 35,000 ppm but will be decreased to 5,000 ppm under changes to Annex VI of the MARPOL convention that takes effect on 1 January, 2020.
EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler said “These targeted regulatory corrections will clear the way for U.S. refiners to provide cleaner marine fuel for ships that sail across the globe,” adding “Hitting this key deadline is vital to meeting the terms of this important treaty that protects air quality and human health both at home and abroad.”
In late November, the Greek shipping minister Ioannis Plakiotakis told IMO that operators were not ready to meet the 2020 fuel requirements. He said “We are yet to be confronted with the full scale reality of the availability, compatibility and safety challenges and grave risks of the new marine low-sulfur fuel.”
Russia, India and Indonesia also have voiced concerns. In India, state owned Indian Oil has started sales of low sulphur fuels but India’s shipping regulator has indicated that enforcement will be relaxed in the first months of 2020.