There could be a shortage of scrubbers resulting in a worldwide shortage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) after 2020 when IMO’s sulphur cap comes into effect, said Alfa Laval vice president Niclas Dahl, who heads its marine separation and heat transfer business.
In an exclusive interview with Marine Propulsion, he said that if all the HFO currently being produced by refineries is to be used, “you need to have scrubbers on board every ship.” That is an unlikely scenario, he said, and “the interest in scrubbers is steadily increasing.”
He stressed that this was just one possible outcome, but “we have to prepare for all scenarios,” Mr Dahl said, since Alfa Laval is a major scrubber manufacturer and changes in fuel usage would have an impact on many of its fuel handling products.
Following a decision in February at the fifth meeting of IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 5), ships will not be able to load HFO unless they are fitted with an approved “equivalent arrangement” to meet the sulphur limit, such as a scrubber. As a result, if there is a shortage of ships fitted with scrubbers there will be reduced demand for HFO, Mr Dahl said.
“A critical mass of scrubbers installed on ships is needed in order to store HFO” at ports he said, which could lead to a global shortage. Large ports would continue to store it, but smaller ones may not, he suggested. He stressed that this was just one possible outcome; the more likely result of falling demand for HFO is that it will become very cheap, he said.
Alfa Laval is a member of the Exhaust Gas Cleaning Systems Association (EGCSA), whose director, Don Gregory, told Marine Propulsion that, “post-2020 there is not about to be a shortage of high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO) available for sale.”
But he said that, in smaller markets “supply chain limitations of storage and transport may result in a shortage of supply capability for HSFO as the supply chain capacity switches to 0.50% sulphur fuels” although “that scenario is highly unlikely in large supply ports.”
Supply chain costs may initially rise for HSFO, he said, “but that is likely to be offset by the fall in the price of HSFO. A key driver to the return of the supply chain to HSFO where they have switched away will be the likely very attractive margin to be had in the buying and selling price.”