On January 1, 2020 the International Maritime Organization (IMO) implemented new fuel standards for oil-powered vessels, except those equipped with exhaust scrubbers to remove pollutants. In the absence of a scrubber, the IMO 2020 rule stipulates that ships' bunkers contain less than 0.5% sulfur. Using a scrubber allows the vessel to burn cheaper high-sulfur fuel. Last March, a shipowner’s estimated $2.5 million scrubber investment for a 2-MMbbl Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) would take just over three years to recover, based on average fuel prices during the first quarter of 2019. This year, barely a month after the new regulation came into force, the payback period has shortened dramatically, to less than a year, though the coronavirus’s effect on shipping demand and fuel prices, among other factors, could again put payout timing at risk. Today, we look at changing price spreads between high-sulfur and low-sulfur bunker and the scrubber payback economics that suggest a rosier outlook for vessel owners who invested in scrubber installations, at least for now.
Some shipowners plan to comply with the IMO 2020 deadlines for limiting sulfur in ship emissions by installing scrubber devices to clean the exhaust generated by burning less expensive high-sulfur bunker fuel. For many, this may work out to be more economical, at least in the interim, than using more costly IMO 2020-compliant fuel with sulfur content of no more than 0.5% or converting the vessel to run on an altogether different fuel such as liquefied natural gas. However, narrowing “sulfur spreads” this year have put that compliance strategy at risk by tripling the time it would take for shipowners to recoup their scrubber investments. Today, we continue an analysis of the changing economics of scrubber installation in the run-up to IMO 2020.
Last year, the impending implementation of International Maritime Organization’s rule mandating the use of lower-sulfur marine fuels starting January 1, 2020, widened the price spread between rule-compliant 0.5%-sulfur bunker and the 3.5%-sulfur marine fuel that has been a shipping industry mainstay. Traders’ thinking was that demand for high-sulfur bunker would evaporate in the run-up to IMO 2020, as the new rule is known. But since early January, the spread between low- and high-sulfur fuel at the Gulf Coast has narrowed from nearly $11/bbl to less than $2/bbl. The culprit is a shortage of heavy-sour crude caused by a number of factors. Today, we begin a two-part series on low-sulfur vs. high-sulfur fuel and crude values as IMO 2020 approaches.
In January 2015 new international regulations came into force that reduced the permitted sulfur content in ships “bunker” fuel in Northern European and North American coastal regions. So far, international shipping companies and cruise lines have been responding to these rules primarily by switching to marine gasoil (MGO), burning lower-sulfur fuel oil, or sticking with higher-sulfur fuel oil and adding “scrubbers” to capture most of the sulfur being emitted by their ships’ engines. More recently, though, some of the shipping sector’s biggest players have unveiled plans to boost the use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a bunker fuel, figuring that LNG bunkering will not only help them meet existing regulations but the tougher rules likely to be implemented over the next few years. Today, we begin a short series on the opportunities and challenges associated with shifting ships from fuel oil to LNG.
Fuel oil demand has been declining for years on dry land – under attack by regulators anxious to reduce sulfur emissions. New international regulations introduced in January of this year are designed to further reduce sulfur emissions from ship engines burning marine fuel oil (“bunkers”) at sea. The new regulations have had an immediate impact on the market for 1% sulfur fuel oil. Most affected ship owners are now using more marine gasoil in coastal zones. Today we examine how the new regulations have impacted fuel oil markets.
In January 2015 new international regulations came into force that reduced the permitted sulfur content in ships “bunker” fuel in Northern European and North American coastal regions. The change has required vessels travelling in those zones to use more expensive fuels or install scrubbers to remove sulfur. The changeover was expected to cause a sharp increase in shipping costs but as we discuss in today’s blog, so far the impact has been far less painful than expected, at least so far.
While most of the country is enjoying the benefits that low cost North American supplies of natural gas bring to local and regional economies, many parts of the Northeast US and Atlantic Canada are still heavily reliant on expensive oil-based products for residential, commercial and industrial use. That is in spite of the proximity of burgeoning supplies of natural gas in the Marcellus and Utica shale basins. The challenge in converting users away from oil lies in infrastructure build out and deciding who will pay. Today we begin a two part series on the slow conversion process and new solutions to supply natural gas to customers before pipeline infrastructure is built.
Forty percent of the world’s fuel oil - the residual oil left over after extracting lighter products from crude oil - is used as bunker oil to power Ocean going vessels. Much of that fuel has relatively high sulfur content. Given that refineries sell fuel oil for less than the cost of crude – the bunkers market has traditionally been a convenient dumping ground for unwanted high sulfur residual fuel oil. New international regulations that came into force in 2012 drastically reduce the permitted sulfur content in bunkers after 2015 in the world’s populated coastal regions. Today we describe the impact the new rules could have on refiners.
Several large deep-water terminals located strategically on Caribbean islands play an important role in the international fuel oil trade. These terminals can berth larger vessels than most Gulf Coast ports – making them ideal staging points for transshipment of ocean bound cargoes coming and going from Europe, Asia or Latin America. With its recent acquisition of the Hess East Coast terminal assets, Buckeye looks set to become a dominant player in the Caribbean terminal and storage market. Today we conclude a two-part survey of Caribbean fuel terminals.
Last Wednesday (October 9, 2013) Buckeye Partners announced an agreement to purchase Hess Oil’s East Coast terminal assets – including a crude and fuel oil terminal on the Island of St Lucia in the Caribbean. Buckeye already own a large oil storage terminal in the Bahamas, known as BORCO so with the new acquisition they will become the largest storage and terminal player in the Caribbean market. The fuel oil trade in the region is a combination of local bunkers supply, fuel oil for power plants and larger scale transshipments of fuel oil for international markets. Today we look at fuel oil terminal facilities in the Caribbean.
The BOSTCO Terminal started operations this week on the Houston Ship Channel. By early next year (2014) the terminal will have 6 MMBbl of storage capacity. This $500 Million investment by two midstream companies is designed to meet the expanding needs of fuel oil blenders at the Gulf Coast. Before the first phase could be completed, 900 MBbl of additional refined product storage planned for phase two, was snapped up by Morgan Stanley for distillate fuels. Today we describe the terminal facilities and ownership structure.
The US Gulf Coast is perceived by midstream operators to offer a growing opportunity for the export of fuel oil left over from refinery processing. The US does not produce as much residual fuel oil as European refiners and the largest market is in Asia. But the US Gulf is ideally positioned to import fuel oil from Europe or Latin America to blend with domestic production and export to Asia. New terminal infrastructure is coming online to meet growing demand for storage and blending facilities. Today we look at the Gulf Coast’s largest fuel oil terminal.
The market for residual fuel oil is traditionally not attractive for refiners because prices are lower than for crude feedstocks. However, some of the world’s biggest oil traders profit from arbitrage between different fuel oil grades and locations. The Gulf Coast market is expected to expand as refiners add imported fuel oil to their feedstocks to balance lighter crudes coming their way from shale production. In October a brand new fuel oil terminal will open on the Houston Ship Channel to help serve the growing needs of fuel oil traders. Today, appropriately “International Talk-Like-a-Pirate-Day” we begin a new series covering the Gulf Coast fuel oil market.
Refinery yields are an important measure of refinery performance indicating the outputs that running a particular crude through a refinery configuration will produce. When these outputs are matched against refined product prices, the relative financial performance of different refinery configurations in different locations can be compared. Refinery yields are also important inputs to the optimization calculations that refiners use to determine the best mix of crudes to process. Today we review how refinery yields are determined and the part they play in refinery optimization.