The International Maritime Organization (IMO), a branch of the United Nations, has been banning ships from using fuels with a sulfur content higher than 0.5% in an attempt to reduce pollution. Before these new measures were established in 2019, the sulfur content in fuel was at 3.5%. The IMO began enforcing this new rule in January of 2020, and shipping companies worldwide have been scrambling to adjust. Oil refineries worldwide have been racing to adapt their production standards to this new regulation.
Bound for North America
Refinería Dominicana de Petróleo, also known as Refidomsa PDV, is an oil refinery located in San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic. It’s the first oil refinery to export fuel that is compliant with the new regulations for sulfur levels established by the IMO. Two shipping vessels carrying 50,000 barrel units each were sent to North America to subsidiaries of the Vitol Group energy and commodities company in February. The Dominican Republic has plans to export more than 100,000 barrel units of fuel that are compliant with the new low-sulfur regulations every month for the foreseeable future.
The president of Refidomsa’s board of directors, Félix Jiménez, announced that the low-sulfur fuel was produced by using production technologies that were established by the company to raise the standards of its fuel. These production codes were settled on after extensive research was conducted by the company concerning procedures for improving the quality of fuel and reducing the levels of pollution to the air and environment as a result. Jiménez did not provide any detailed information about the new technologies Refidomsa has been using to improve their fuel quality, however.
According to the new regulations established by the IMO, only vessels that have devices called “scrubbers” that remove sulfur from the fuel will be allowed to burn high-sulfur fuel. As an alternative, owners of vessels can choose to use liquefied natural gas and other sources of cleaner fuels. Fines, detainment of vessels and imprisonment could be imposed if these new regulations are not followed. The regulations will be enforced by the governments of countries in which the vessels were registered. Failure to follow these new regulations could also negatively affect vessels’ insurance policies, which could ultimately lead to the cancellation of coverage.