The graph above shows U.S. Gulf Coast Ultra-Low Sulfur Diesel (ULSD) Spot Prices. U.S. ULSD spot prices are used as a proxy to track transportation costs increases prior to and following the implementation of IMO 20202. While the costs of compliant fuels in marine vessels vary based on loading port/region, the actual fuel used (MGO, LNG, HSFO, LSFO, etc.) and several other factors, this graph can be used to give an estimate on the transportation market pressure. IMO 2020 effects are not isolated from other market factors.

Maritime Industry Impact

  • The ultra low sulfur distillates will displace around 3 million bpd of high sulfur fuel oil. A global shortfall of 1-1.5 million bpd of low sulfur fuels has been projected.
  • Shipowners have the option of burning 0.5% ultra low sulfur fuels, installing stack scrubbers to capture sulfur in exhaust gas, or using LNG (liquefied natural gas) or MGO (marine gasoil).
  • The industry’s cost of compliance has been estimated to be as high as $60 billion per year, resulting in increased freight costs across the board.


  • IMO 2020 has created a premium on light sweet crudes.
  • Since base oils and bright stock make up such a small percentage of a typical refinery’s overall production, production of fuels will drive crude selection process.
  • Supplies of low sulfur residual fuel oil have not been sufficient to replace high sulfur residual volume used in fuel oil blending.
  • Ergon’s refineries participate in the fuels market, but our primary focus continues to be excelling in specialty markets. Our production plans will see minimal impact from IMO 2020.


  • The fuels market for high sulfur products has been reduced because of IMO 2020.
  • Changes to processing and/or crude oil slates will be required. Low-complexity refineries without the ability to upgrade the bottom of the barrel may be facing significant challenges.
  • Low viscosity products are being used in fuel oils, potentially creating market voids in some products such as transformer oils and drilling fluids.
  • Ergon has been purpose built for production of lubes, with alternative outlets making up a small percentage of production. Our investment strategy has been to add technology that allows us to handle a wide slate of crudes and provide dependable, consistent naphthenic products.


  • EIA 10/18 predicted a 10-20% increase in the cost of ground diesel, which will result in increased delivery costs.
  • Gasoline/diesel crack spreads are expected to rise due to the change in regulations.
  • As the January 1, 2020, deadline approaches, shipowners and refiners are formulating strategies to lessen the overall impact of IMO 2020, reducing the original predictions of widespread price hikes and limited supply. Most sources expect the market to readjust by 2025.

Shipowners and refiners have been working to formulate strategies to lessen the overall impact of IMO 2020 and to reduce the original predictions of widespread price hikes and limited supply. Most sources expect the market to readjust by 2025.

ARGUS IMO2020 News Updates

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Why is IMO 2020 going into effect?

The aim of IMO 2020 is to curb pollution created by an estimated 60,000 vessels in the world’s shipping fleet. According to the UK’s Guardian newspaper, one large shipping vessel can emit more pollution than 50 million cars, and the 15 largest vessels emit more nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide than all of the world’s cars combined. Reducing the sulfur levels in fuels will greatly reduce sulfur oxide emissions from ships.

How will compliance be monitored?

Compliance and enforcement of the new regulations will fall to governments and the national authorities of member states. Should ship owners fail to comply, they could be fined or have their vessels seized. Announced fines have varied from $10,000/$20,000 to $7.5 million per offense. The lack of a set standard or ability to police vessels at sea will incentivize some companies to use non-compliant fuels.

What has Ergon done to safeguard products and customers against market impacts like IMO 2020?

Ergon is a purpose-built lubes refiner, committed to a long-term investment strategy which allows us to ensure a strong, reliable supply and lessens our susceptibility to market impacts. We have continuously expanded our naphthenic refinery, which currently has a capacity of 25,000 bpd, and our paraffinic refinery, which has a capacity of 23,500 bpd.

As the world’s largest naphthenic producer, second largest bright stock producer, and fourth largest base oil manufacturer in North America, Ergon is committed to meeting your needs for solvency and viscosity, both now and in the future.

  • Why is IMO 2020 going into effect?
  • How will compliance be monitored?
  • What has Ergon done to safeguard products and customers against market impacts like IMO 2020?


You can find us at any of the below events.

Come & talk to us about how the new IMO regulations are affecting the market in your region.