Long after sulphur cap, scrubbers to gain ground

A low HFO price will have a 'significant impact on the return on investment of scrubbers in the future', said Somerkallio A low HFO price will have a 'significant impact on the return on investment of scrubbers in the future', said Somerkallio

Around 30% of ships will revert to heavy fuel oil operations around ten years after the 2020 global sulphur cap, according to Olli Somerkallio, head of machinery at naval architect and engineering consultancy Foreship.

Most ships are expected to select low-sulphur fuel to meet the initial challenge of the 0.5% sulphur cap. But Somerkallio noted that continuing demand for heavy fuel oil – as part of the blend for low-sulphur fuel, as a marine fuel used with scrubbers and as a substitute fuel in powerplants in post-Soviet states – would contribute to a low price by 2030.

“This will have a significant impact on the return on investment of scrubbers in the future,” said Somerkallio.

While the prediction does not conflict with most estimates of scrubber uptake by 2020 – indeed it confirms the projection in a study conducted by CE Delft for the IMO that around 3,000 to 4,000 ships would install scrubbers – it differs from those projections by looking at the changing market for scrubbers and HFO beyond the cap.

Foreship has advised on 34 scrubber retrofit projects, comprising 13 cruise ships, 11 ro-pax ferries, nine ro-ros and a containership.

“We have faced and overcome a broad range of installation challenges, including the fact that scrubbers eat into the revenue-earning space required for passengers or freight,” said Somerkallio.

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