ExxonMobil is reviewing an upgrade to its 592,000 bpd Singapore refinery so that output from the city state’s biggest integrated petrochemical facility can meet planned tighter standards for maritime fuel.
“Should the project proceed, we plan to implement proprietary technologies that will convert lower-value by-products into cleaner, higher-value products, including 0.5% sulphur fuels that we believe will be the compliant option for the vast majority of the marine sector,” ExxonMobil’s vice president of Asia-Pacific fuels, Matt Bergeron, said.
The upgrade would bring production from Singapore’s largest refinery in line with planned anti-pollution rules from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO). These will from 2020 cap admissible sulphur levels in shipping fuel at 0.5%, compared with 3.5% now.
With bunker fuel sales exceeding 50 million tonnes for the first time ever in 2017, Singapore is an important supplier of marine fuels and the market is growing.
The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA) is working with stakeholders to ensure the city state is ready by 2020 to supply low-sulphur fuels that comply with the new standards, Singaporean Senior Minister of State for Transport and Health Lam Pin Min said last week. It will release by mid-2019 a list of licensed suppliers of such fuels.
The MPA has also allocated US$5 million under the Green Energy Programme to support the development and use of cleaner alternative marine fuels such as methanol and biofuels.
“With the impending global sulphur limit and the IMO’s commitment to halve carbon emissions by 2050, the bunker industry in Singapore is at an inflexion point,” said Lam. “If we are able to overcome these challenges, I am confident that we will be able to take the industry to greater heights.”
ExxonMobil is considering similar upgrades at plants across the world, having just last month revealed plans to invest more than GBP500 million (US$655.2 million) in an overhaul of its Fawley plant in the UK.
“We have already made significant investments at a number of other refineries around the world in order to increase our production capacity of cleaner fuels with lower sulphur content,” Bergeron added.
Getting the global shipping industry in compliance with the planned IMO rules will cost an estimated US$60 billion.