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IMO 2020 to impact European refineries

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Hydrocarbon Engineering,

European refineries are to expect the largest impact from new IMO 2020 regulations. However, just 23% of these refineries are focussing on operational improvements which target higher availability to make low sulfur fuels, according to a global study of senior employees in the refining industry, commissioned by asset optimisation software company AspenTech.

The survey also revealed a global shortfall in refineries regarding this focus on clean fuels, with just 37% claiming to be doing so as a result of IMO 2020.

However, four out of ten (43%) refineries globally are focusing on operational improvements targeted at improved overall utilisation, relying on digital investment to secure operational efficiency improvements. Mid-sized refineries are focussing on this the most, in a ‘survival of the fittest’ battle in the lower quartiles.

Globally, nearly two-thirds of oil refineries (64%) have not made any capital expenditure against IMO 2020 regulations, which came into effect on 1 January 2020.

The study also found that refineries expect fuel oil production to fall as a result of IMO 2020, with more than a third (34%) of global refineries expecting to produce less fuel oil in 2020, while just 24% expected to increase production.

Ron Beck, Industry Marketing Director at AspenTech, said: “We are in a challenging period, but there are still many margin improvement opportunities refineries can make. There are two clear options to help them compete: operational improvements to increase utilisation or increased availability. Today’s technology can improve both.”

Beck added: “Given the overall reduction in production that IMO 2020 is likely to bring, fuels that enable shippers to comply will be comparatively more valuable in the market. It’s concerning that most refineries are failing to focus on improved utilisation. Such investment is becoming ever more urgent as IMO 2020 approaches. Digital approaches can significantly help operators who have yet to decide on capital investments.”

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