Japan to test IMO-Compliant Bunker Fuel from Refiners on Coastal Ships Soon

3 Jun 2019

Tokyo — Japan’s transport ministry intends to run a trial soon to use bunker fuel from local refiners that complies with International Maritime Organization’s new sulfur limit on domestic coastal vessels, a ministry official told S&P Global Platts Monday.

“Currently, we are in the final stage of coordination to select refineries to supply the fuel, bunker barges and ships for the trial, which we aim to carry out in the near future,” the official at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism said.

The MLIT is also working with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to develop a framework to help companies participate in the trial, the official said.

The IMO will cap global sulfur content in marine fuels at 0.5% from January 1, down from 3.5% now. This applies outside the designated emission control areas where the limit is already 0.1%.

Shipowners will have to either burn cleaner, more expensive fuels or install scrubbers if they continue to burn high sulfur fuel oil, to comply with the rule.

The latest trial will come after MLIT, METI, the Japan Federation of Coastal Shipping Associations and local refiners already found that compatibility of blending bunker fuels was proved in a test involving the current high sulfur bunker fuel oil with the IMO-compliant low sulfur fuel oil.

The test, using sample fuels from Idemitsu Kosan, Cosmo Oil, JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy, Showa Shell and Fuji Oil, examined the compatibility of including blending of the existing HSFO with the IMO-compliant LSFO, as well as blending of IMO-compliant LSFO, according to a guidance compiled by MLIT.

REFINERS CAN SUPPLY IMO-COMPLIANT BUNKER FUEL

The MLIT guidance also noted that Japanese refiners will be able to produce and supply the IMO-compliant LSFO with a sulfur content of less than 0.5%, a kinematic viscosity of more than 20 CST and a pour point of less than 30 degrees Celsius for bunkering.

The spec for the IMO-compliant LSFO compares with the current HSFO-grade supplied by the refiners for bunkering with a sulfur content of less than 3.5%, a kinematic viscosity of around 150 CST and a pour point of less than 10 C, according to the MLIT guidance.

Speaking at a press conference Friday, Petroleum Association of Japan president Takashi Tsukioka said Japanese refiners have already agreed on the quality of their planned supply of IMO-compliant bunker fuels with local shipping companies.

Japan’s largest refiner, JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy, which accounts for 40-50% of domestic bunker fuel supply, is ready to start supplying IMO-compliant bunker fuel by October, Tsutomu Sugimori, president of parent JXTG Holdings, said on May 13.

At a press conference in March, Tsukioka said Japanese refiners will be able to supply bunker fuel that complies with the IMO’s sulfur limit rule for marine fuels by October-November.