Rystad Energy - Energy Knowledge House
Rystad Energy - Energy Knowledge House

press release

What is the IMO 2020 effect on the fuel bunker mix short- and long term?

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On January 1, 2020, the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO’s) bunker fuel regulations come into effect. The sulfur content limits in bunker fuels used outside the designated Emission Control Areas (ECAs) will be reduced to 0.5% (from 3.5%) to reduce air emissions from shipping.

High sulfur fuel oil (HSFO) currently represents nearly 80% (approx. 3.84 million bpd) of the 5.0 million bpd global bunker demand, which will become non-compliant. Essentially, ship owners have three options: 1) Switch to compliant fuels, such as oil products with low sulfur content or alternative fuels such as LNG; 2) Install SOx scrubbers (exhaust gas cleaning systems); or 3) Fail to comply with regulations (non-compliance).

Our base case forecasts a volatile transition with a mix of these three options.

201900405 Friday snapshot_marine bunker fuel demand by fuel type 2018-2025.jpg

As illustrated in the figure, we estimate that around 700,000 bpd of very low-sulfur fuel oil (VLSFO) will be available in 2020, rising sharply to 1.3 million bpd in 2025. In 2020, we estimate that another 600,000 bpd of marine fuel demand will be satisfied by blends manufactured from existing low-sulfur fuels, middle distillates and high sulfur fuel oil, which we call “MGO & FO blend”. The share of VLSFO and other compliant fuel oil blends will be initially low, as ship owners seem reluctant to adopt the new fuel immediately; first, they aren’t confident that these fuels will be widely available already in 2020, and second, because they are unsure if the low sulfur fuel oil offered at different ports will be compatible.

A small share (15,000 bpd) of the marine fuel demand will be met by other fuels such as LNG. The remaining 1.5 million bpd of the bunker market is expected to continue using HSFO through the installation of scrubbers and non-compliance.

We estimate that by end-2020 there will be around 2,800 scrubbers installed consuming 690,000 bpd of HSFO. In addition, we expect non-compliance to retain 860,000 bpd of HSFO demand in 2020. This will come from areas where compliant fuel will not be readily available, or with low monitoring.

For a more detailed analysis please subscribe to our Oil Market Analytics.



Bjørnar Tonhaugen
Head of Oil Market Research
Phone: +47 24 00 42 00

Carsten Torbergsen
Marketing Manager
Phone: +47 24 00 42 00


About Rystad Energy

Rystad Energy is an independent energy research and business intelligence company providing data, tools, analytics and consultancy services to the global energy industry. Our products and services cover energy fundamentals and the global and regional upstream, oilfield services and renewable energy industries, tailored to analysts, managers and executives alike. Rystad Energy’s headquarters are located in Oslo, Norway with offices in London, New York, Houston, Stavanger, Moscow, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore, Bangalore, Tokyo, Sydney and Dubai.