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Luca Volta, marine fuels venture manager, marine fuels and lubricants for ExxonMobil

ExxonMobil seeks to reassure shipowners on 2020 compliant low sulphur fuels

As the deadline for 2020 sulphur cap fast approaches compatibility and availability of compliant fuels are top concerns for shipowners and managers and ExxonMobil is keen to assure customers on both counts as it released details of its 2020 compliant fuels range this week.

ExxonMobil’s 2020 compliant 0.5% sulphur fuels range from RMD80 to RMG380 with a density of between 900 and 970 at 15 degrees Celsius, and catalytic fine content meeting ISO 8217:2017 parameters.

Speaking to Seatrade Maritime News, Luca Volta, marine fuels venture manager, marine fuels and lubricants for ExxonMobil, said: “We continue to emphasize the compatibility characteristics of these fuels which leverage ExxonMobil proprietary technology. It’s been a process of developing these fuels and providing what this industry needs.”

On the issue of compatibility he said, “There is concern and rightly the industry needs to be concerned.”

Read more: Recent spike in bunker disputes - more to come with 2020 sulphur cap

In order to address the issue of availability and compatibility of the new fuels he said that ExxonMobil looked at all its refineries and what streams were available and the different natures of these. Producing the right fuel involves balancing the two different dimensions aromaticity and paraffinic nature.

“Aromatics they are more compatible but they don’t burn as well, paraffinic they are less compatible but burn better, so trying to find the right medium between these two is what this patented and proprietary technology enables us to do,” Volta explained.

In terms of compatibility he said that if you were mixing ratios of 90:10 or 10:90 there should be no issues. “For 80:20 you may need some very small on board handling adjustments, after that we never advise to mix fuels,” he said.

ExxonMobil does not plan to leave its customers on their own to deal with challenges they may face in the switch to low sulphur fuels, and Volta said, “We’re going to work with customers not only providing fuels but also technical services in order to help them understand some of the potential challenges, and some of the implications are around the world and how by working with us we can help them with that.”


To meet the demands for 0.5% sulphur compliant fuels and marine gas oil the oil company has undertaken a billion dollar upgrade of its Antwerp plant, and is assessing a major upgrade in Singapore and the UK.

In terms of where the low sulphur fuel range will be available initially ExxonMobil has named the ports of – Antwerp, Rotterdam, Genoa, Marseilles, Singapore, Laem Chabang and Hong Kong.

Explaining the decision in terms of ports Volta said: “The choices relate to where we can deploy a cost effective supply chain. We can deploy an effective supply chain where these ports are in proximity of our manufacturing assets. This is where we are focusing our first wave. Product moves easily but then the cost effectiveness of the supply chain comes into play.”

With 95% of ships set to use low sulphur compliant fuel this leaves the question of the availability of high sulphur heavy fuel oil for the increasing number of owners opting to fit exhaust gas scrubbers. On availability Volta said: “It depends on the location, it depends on what refinery upgrades we have done to support the industry.”

Read more: Scrubber numbers surge to 1,262, but not a solution for all shipowners

For those fitting scrubbers ExxonMobil is working directly with a number of customers. “I’m prepared to look with them at dedicated supply chains to support them, but it has to be cost effective for both parties, both in terms of quantities, commitment, and in terms of length of commitment. We’re prepared to do that but it becomes very much a one-to-one discussion.”

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