Low sulphur fuel found to have higher black carbon emissions than HSFO

Mandated into law for less than three weeks and very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO), shipping’s new number one bunkering choice, is already facing calls to be banned, especially in Arctic waters.

A submission made by Finland and Germany to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) suggests VLSFO has higher black carbon emissions than its forebear, high sulphur fuel oil (HSFO).

The detailed submission, funded by the German Environment Agency and assisted by class society DNL GL and engine maker MAN ES, shows that new blends of marine fuels with 0.50% sulphur content can contain a large percentage of aromatic compounds, which have a direct impact on black carbon emissions.

“New hybrid fuels with 0.50% sulphur content used in the study contained a high proportion of aromatic compounds in a range of 70% to 95%, which resulted in increased [black carbon] emissions in a range of 10% to 85% compared to HFO,” the study claimed. The higher emissions were most noticeable when the engine was running at less than full capacity.

The submission urges that aromatic content be included in the specification of marine fuels of the ISO 8217 petroleum standard.

The black carbon news has quickly seen a number of NGOs call for VLSFO found to have high aromatic contents to be banned for ships transiting Artic waters.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


  1. i found always problème with ifo 80 , higher smoke présent with low load diesel engine man

  2. this problem can easily dealt with without any extra cost. The fuel additive available and in use by shipping companies to reduce smoke in ports and avoid fines. These additives actually enhanced the fuel efficiency up-to 30%. Which saves the cost considerably

  3. Another great solution would be to use HFO with a scrubber and reduce not only sulphur to below 0.1%Sulphur level but also greatly reduce Sooth emissions. All this while saving money on fuel.

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