Prevalence of Heavy Fuel Oil and Black Carbon in Arctic Shipping, 2015 to 2025

New shipping routes are appearing in the Arctic Ocean as its sea ice diminishes, and traffic is expected to rise as shipping fleets take advantage of trans-Arctic routes between Asia, Europe and North America. This will increase the risks of accidents, oil spills, and air pollution in the region. Spills of heavy fuel oil (HFO) and emissions of black carbon (BC) would endanger the Arctic environment, as HFO spills are extremely difficult to clear up, and HFO combustion releases BC, an accelerator of climate change, into the air. The authors estimated the usage and carriage of HFO and other fuels, and emissions of BC and other pollutants in the Arctic for the year 2015, with projections to 2020 and 2025. HFO was the marine fuel most used in the Arctic in 2015, almost 57% of the nearly 500,000 tonnes of fuel consumed by Arctic shipping; this was followed by distillate (43%), with almost no liquefied natural gas (LNG) being used. Cargo ships consumed most of this HFO, followed by oil tankers and cruise ships. Although only 42% of ships in the Arctic operated on HFO in 2015, they accounted for 76% of fuel carried, and 56% of fuel transported, in the region. About two thirds of BC emissions from ships in the Arctic in 2015 came from HFO consumption, with the largest emissions of BC coming from fishing vessels (25%), general cargo vessels (19%), and service vessels (12%). Even if only 1%–2% of large cargo vessels change from the Panama and Suez Canal routes to the Arctic Ocean over the next ten years, BC emissions could rise by 46% between 2015 and 2025. Several policies are possible for reduction of risks from air pollution and fuel oil spills in the Arctic. Restrictions on HFO in the Arctic would greatly reduce the risks of spills, while air pollution would be reduced if ships used distillate, LNG, or other alternative fuels. A more robust approach would be to prohibit all petroleum-based fuels, requiring a complete shift to cleaner fuels, despite costs to existing shipping fleets. Arctic BC emissions could be regulated either by new emission standards requiring low- or zero-BC-content fuels, or by mandating BC reduction devices such as diesel particulate filters. Such policies would encourage the shift toward less environmentally risky fuels in Arctic shipping.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Appendices; Figures; Maps; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 68p

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01770001
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Jan 27 2021 12:49PM