Steve Benwell – IMO 2020 – A Sulphur Reduction Program with a Difference!


The impending IMO 2020 sulphur cap is the current focus of the marine industry’s attention and even with less than 12 months until the implementation deadline, there is still significant uncertainty about exactly how this will all work. From an early compliance perspective, the use of low sulphur fuels appears to be the predominant choice, although a late increase in the adoption of scrubbers means that there will still be a desire for high sulphur fuel oils. Many aspects in the value chain from crude producer, all the way through to final end-user need to coalesce in the brief time remaining.

In some ways, the removal of sulphur from marine fuels is merely the next logical step in the reduction of sulphur in transportation fuels that has been going on now for decades and no-one can argue against the environmental benefits that such reductions have delivered. However, this transition seems to carry with it significantly more complexity than the historic reductions in gasoline and automotive diesel fuels. Sulphur reduction in these lighter fuels involved relatively straight forward hydrotreating processes while at the same time generally improving the overall quality of the fuels being produced. The lower sulphur fuels could be used in the same way as before and fungibility was for the most part maintained. However, the situation for heavy marine fuels is significantly different since sulphur reduction of these fuels requires either much more expensive processing units or blending of potentially incompatible fuel components. Consequently, the fuels produced may have properties significantly different from the historic range of fuels and it is unlikely that the same level of fuel fungibility will be maintained.

This presentation will discuss some of the anticipated changes in fuels as sulphur levels are reduced, the challenges that these changes may present and the way in which fuel additives can be part of the solution going forward. In addition, we will touch on the potential implications for marine lube oils and the additive that will be required for them.


Steve has worked in the additives business for more than 30 years, first with Shell and then with Infineum since its start-up 20 years ago. During this time, he has had extensive experience in both fuel and lubricating oil additives. Steve has had jobs in a wide range of functions including R&D, Technical Support, Industry Liaison, New Business Development & Sales and more recently in Sales and Business Management for Infineum’s key global fuel additive accounts.

Steve is also leading Infineum’s global team developing and marketing fuel additives for marine fuel applications in anticipation of the new needs associated with the impending Marpol 2020 sulphur reduction requirements. Steve is currently based in Houston, Texas, in the U.S.A., but has also worked in the UK and has extensive experience across many global markets.

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