Finland’s refiner Neste has announced it will offer low-sulphur marine fuels in the fourth quarter of 2019 to help ships meet upcoming International Maritime Organization (IMO) regulations on sulphur dioxide emissions.

Beginning 1 January 2020, ships globally will be required to reduce emissions by ensuring the fuel they use on board has a sulphur content no higher than 0.5%, down from the current cap of 3.5%, according to new IMO rules.

Ships can meet the requirement by using low-sulphur fuel oil or fitting scrubbers, the IMO said. However, shipping companies continue to face challenges such as inadequate availability of low-sulphur fuels and expensive refineries.

Neste’s executive vice-president of oil products Marko Pekkola said Neste’s new low-sulphur fuel will make it easier for shipping companies to prepare for new regulations. “Neste Marine 0.5 meets the stricter legislative requirements for maritime sulphur emissions, enabling smooth operations,” he said.

“The shipping industry is undergoing a major transformation of becoming a cleaner [industry],” said head of marine fuels and services at Neste Sveta Ukkonen. “In 2015, [the] SECA area was introduced, [creating a] requirement for 0.1% fuels. The shipping industry has to comply with this requirement and there are several solutions to do so, one of which is using 0.5% fuel such as Neste Marine 0.5.”

Ukkonen said the new product was created by “leveraging on in-house R&D and production expertise.” It has been verified by a fuel equipment system and engine tests in its laboratory and on-board, and meets the RMG 0.5 specification and ISO 8217:2017 standard requirements.

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“With this new product we are expanding our customer base outside Finland and Greate Stockholm area, where we are present now,” said Ukkonen.

The product will be available in autumn 2019 and north-west Europe will be the company’s focus during the initial months.

While most countries are gearing up to comply with the sulphur cap, not all are ready yet. For instance, Indonesia issued a statement in July 2019 that it “requires more time to adjust,” and Indonesian authorities have said that ships will be using fuel with a maximum of 3.5% in its territorial waters post-2020.