Image credit: Marine Electronics

In what was heralded as a landmark decision last month, the International Maritime Organization agreed to cap the sulfur content of marine fuels by 2020.

Shipping officials agreed to cap the level of sulfur found in marine fuels sold globally at 0.5 percent, reported The Guardian. This move is not only expected to reduce sulfur-related premature deaths, but also cut SO2 emissions in the shipping industry by 85 percent.

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Maersk, a shipping giant, also praised the decision via Twitter:

However, there could be some mechanical hurdles that must eventually be overcome when more ships start using lower-sulfur fuels, according to the International Council on Combustion Engines. Lower-sulfur fuels typically have a lower viscosity than higher-sulfur fuels, it writes. Thus:

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Fuel pumps are designed for a minimum viscosity and fuel anti wear performance. When the viscosity of the fuel in the pump is too low, hydrodynamic lubrication of the pump can be inadequate, causing wear and scuffing.

A decrease in fuel viscosity may cause an increase in fuel leakage between the pump plunger and barrel. The leakage can lead to hot start and low fuel setting start difficulties, especially in worn fuel pumps. It is advisable to make distillate hot start checks at regular intervals so that the limits of operating conditions for a particular engine are determined. Low viscosity fuels can also lead to the engine not delivering the full designed power output as the design amount of fuel is not delivered by the pump.

Diesel fuel for trucks underwent a similar series of regulations in the United States, though some claim that “under typical operating conditions, there should be no noticeable impact on overall power using Ultra Low Sulfur Diesel fuel,” according to Clean-Diesel.org.

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Anyway, if you love your information delivered to you in pretty pictures, Marine Electronics pulled together a fun little infographic on the matter.