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Europe Fuel Oil Market Rocked As US Threatens To Slow Sulfur Cap Rollout

Europe’s fuel oil market was rattled on Friday by reports that the Trump Administration may look to slow down the introduction of the new regulations limiting sulfur content in ship fuel in order to stave off a potential spike in fuel oil prices that would burden consumers and businesses.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has set January 1, 2020, as the start date of the new IMO rules on using only 0.5-percent sulfur fuel oil on ships, unless said ships have installed scrubbers—systems that remove sulfur from exhaust gas emitted by bunkers.

However, the Trump Administration is looking to slow down the rollout by gradually phasing in the new regulations, in order to “mitigate the impact of precipitous fuel-cost increases on consumers,” the White House said in an email to The Wall Street Journal.

A White House spokesman told The Journal that the United States wasn’t looking to withdraw from the agreement on the new regulations, and the Trump Administration’s plans were not to delay the implementation of the sulfur-cap rules.

Yet, some officials within the administration admitted that the timing of the new regulation would have political implications in a presidential election year.

“Few things terrify an American president more than a spike in fuel prices,” Bob McNally, a former energy adviser to former President George W. Bush, told The Journal.

After the reported U.S. pushback on the IMO regulations, Europe’s fuel oil market was shaken on Friday, brokers and fuel oil traders told S&P Global Platts.

The 2020 spread between high sulfur fuel oil of 3.5 percent and the low sulfur fuel oil of 1 percent, known as hi-lo in the swaps market, dropped to $99/mt on ICE on Friday morning in Europe, from $103.25/mt on Thursday.

“We have seen [Trump] pull out of bigger things,” a fuel oil trader told Platts. The IMO 2020 regulation is big for the fuel oil market, “but in comparison to the other deals he has pulled out of I think it is in keeping,” the trader noted.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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  • Mitch on October 20 2018 said:
    Eh it's 10 months before the election. And can be used as a tool to show that "greenie" policies cost more. And his opponent wouldn't say the policy is bad... if anything, it's more ammunition that he is fine with "destroying the environment" for profits if he pulled us out of the agreement, till after the election.

    If anything, give refiners an incentive to hurry up and make their upgrades to capaitalize on the global opportunity

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