SK Energy ready to produce low-sulfur fuel oil for ships in late March

03, Feb. 2020

Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay
Image by Erich Westendarp from Pixabay

SEOUL, AJU - SK Energy, a major energy company in South Korea, is ready to produce low-sulfur fuel oil for ships as the construction of its desulfurization plant has been completed. The company said commercial production is possible in late March after a two-month test operation.

With an investment of more than 1 trillion won ($840 million), SK Energy completed the construction of vacuum residue desulfurization (VRDS) facilities in late January in the southeastern industrial city of Ulsan to produce 40,000 barrels of low sulfur fuel oil per day.

SK Energy plans to expand production at the desulfurization plant. "The low sulfur oil market will improve in the second quarter when the stockpile of oil by shippers are exhausted. We will continue to push for innovation in eco-friendly business models," CEO Cho Kyong-mok said.

Under new rules imposed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a U.N. maritime safety agency, the amount of sulfur emanating from ships should be reduced from 3.5 percent to 0.5 percent. Conventional heavy fuel oil contains 3.5 percent sulfur, meaning ship owners must either buy expensive low sulfur fuel or install an exhaust gas cleaning system.

In November last year, Hyundai Oilbank completed the test operation of facilities to produce very low sulfur fuel oil by using new technologies to completely eliminate asphaltenes which reduce the fuel efficiency of ships by clogging filters and pipes. Asphaltenes are molecular substances found in crude oil and consist primarily of carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur.

Ships can reduce the levels of sulfur oxide (SOx) emissions by installing an exhaust gas cleaning system such as SOx scrubbers. The scrubber technology works by passing the dirty exhaust gas stream created by the engine through chambers that contain a carefully generated "scrubbing cloud" of water. But scrubbers increase the cost of both building and operating ships.