IMO 2020 Low Sulphur Fuel Oil – an article by Mr. Swen Sauerberg

July 28, 2019

IMO 2020 Low Sulphur Fuel Oil – an article by Mr. Swen Sauerberg

By now all shipowners & Ship Management Companies know about the upcoming 2020 Low Sulphur Global Fuels cap of 0.5 % maximum sulphur in Marine Fuel Oil.

What many still have not thought about is that the Low Sulphur Fuel is also impacting the lubricants for Two and also Four-Stroke Engines.

In this short article I would like to address some questions regarding daily operations which Ship Owners / Management companies will face.

Yes, there are vessels with scrubbers continuing using high sulphur fuels and others who decided to be compliant with the low sulphur fuels. For a vessel with 2 Stroke engines, the question is what cylinder oil shall I use for which fuel.

Shell, for instance, has developed a full range of new cylinder oils with different BNs ranging from 25 to 140 BN. We understand that for a vessel burning 0.5% Low Sulphur fuel oil the best choice would be Alexia 40 (with a BN of 40).

If you are burning high sulphur fuel you would probably go for Alexia 70 (BN 70) or higher BN cylinder oil depending on the type of engine onboard.

The questions that several of our customers will have are:

  • What if I operate a vessel with a scrubber, burning high sulphur fuels but the port where I need to take bunkers offers only low sulphur fuels or MGO?
  • Can I still use my BN 70 cylinder Oil for some time? Most probably not, because the high BN Oil will cause deposits on your pistons. (please seek advice from your lubricants supplier)
  • So the vessel most probably needs to change to a BN 40 or even BN 25 Cylinder Oil to avoid damages
  • But what if I am burning usually compliant low sulphur fuels but the next port of call and bunkering has only high sulphur fuels or MGO?
  • Most probably you will need to change to a BN 70 ( for high sulphur fuels ) or even BN 25 ( for MGO ) cylinder oil

Other questions which are coming up in the coming weeks prior to 1st January 2020 are:

  • If I have a tank full of cylinder oil with a BN of 70, do I need to drain it and change over to a BN 40 cylinder Oil?
  • Can the BN 70 and BN 40 oils be blended?
  • Can I use BN 25 cylinder oil and mix it with my BN 70 to come close to BN 40 cylinder oil?
  • Do I need to have clean tanks for the fuels before changing over to low sulphur fuel oil?
  • Do I need to get the tanks cleaned at a yard or are there other ways to get the tanks clean?

I am sure there are many more questions related to the transition period and how to run the engines with the right cylinder oil to avoid damages.

I can’t address them all here. But I can offer you to contact Hamburg Trading House in Dubai and seek advice from our team of specialist for the change over from High Sulphur to Low Sulphur fuels and the related lubricants changes.

We know how to deal with all the practical on board issues and we can support you with our expertise backed by the Shell Marine Technical support Team.


Hamburg Trading House is an authorized Shell Marine lubricants distributor in the UAE. In addition to Shell Marine Products, they are representing Tribomar in the United Arab Emirates for their Oil Management Systems and Tribomar Test Equipment. Hamburg Trading House is focusing on Marine business only offering its customers outstanding services at competitive prices.