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Low sulphur fuel quality could be a slippery slope: Total Lubmarine

While as many as seven in 10 of its clients have not decided how they will react to the global sulphur emissions cap in 2020, marine lubricants maker Total Lubmarine is forging ahead with its preparations and is set to come up with products suited for the new low sulphur environment by 2019.

According to Lubmarine global marketing manager Serge Dal Farra, at a recent briefing for its clients, some 69% of participants indicated that they had not made a decision on which of the three main solutions, using low sulphur fuels, installing scrubbers or switching to LNG or distillates, they will choose.

However he told Seatrade Maritime News that it is likely that most would choose to switch to low sulphur fuel oil. In line with this however, there are new risks that some may not be aware of and the marine lubricants producer is working hard to address these issues ahead of time.

Dal Farra pointed out that while lower sulphur fuel should technically be cleaner and less prone to generate corrosive byproducts, the quality of the fuel available is the issue. They will inevitably be a blend and a consistent quality may be a challenge to achieve at all bunkering ports.

In addition, while the sulphur may be removed, the operating conditions are still tough, with high temperature and pressure still remaining. This could result in acid build-up still occurring as well as engine fouling where fines or deposits could cause major damage to cylinders and liners, Dal Farra explained.

In response to this, Total Lubmarine is doing research on the requirements for various fuel as well as engine types for the future and is set to bring at least two new products to the market by 2019. There will be sufficient inventory of these at major hubs initially and eventually will be made available throughout the company’s network of 1,000 ports.

Indeed, the year ahead will be an important one for Total Lubmarine, with new developments in the market as well the need to react to a rapidly changing environment. Among these, Dal Farra said an important concern for lubricant makers is the need to normalise prices.

“We see that the market is in a better shape than it was one year ago in terms of rates and revenues which may ease some concerns for our customers,” he said, noting that the low level of prices was a big concern for Total Lubmarine while costs were rising.

“We really think the market will have to be prepared for a price increase in the lubricants,” Dal Farra said, suggesting that a price rise would come by the first half although he declined to reveal by how much this would be.

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