ISO 8217:2010 - The Denouement
20th June 2011 16:59 GMT

"I told you so" is such a nice feeling when almost everyone takes the opposing point of view and subsequent events prove you right. Here is the what happened recently.

A shipping company ordered bunker fuel. The test lab reported presence of styrene, alpha methyl styrene and DCPD at very high levels. This lab recommended that the fuel should not be used. The supplier disagreed and the buyer and the supplier agreed to subject this fuel to analysis at another well known lab for final resolution which should be accepted by both parties.

This second lab also came up with very high values for styrene, DCPD, dihydro-DCPD and very high Indene as well. It was obvious that these were residues from Ethylene cracker from a petrochemical plant. To assign a group name, these are "chemical wastes" from a petrochemical plant added to the bunker fuel.

The supplier was unfazed by the high numbers of these substances in the fuel. He first of all argued that as long as the substance is a hydrocarbon, namely a molecule comprised solely of carbon and hydrogen, it can be added to the bunker fuel. It looks like he claimed the right to add any amount of even benzene!, even if it has such toxic potential.

In fact, the supplier went further. He claimed that the constituents from Ethylene Cracker Residue (ECR) can be added and has been always added to bunker fuel. In fact, he claimed that the residue from ECR is an accepted and allowed blend component.

Even assuming this extreme claim that these chemical wastes can be added, how much can be added? After all everything depends on the quantum of the contaminants present, the threshold level above which these contaminants can cause machinery problems and machinery damage.

Let us look at the wording of ISO 8217:2010 and the equivalent wording in ISO 8217:2005.

ISO 8217:2005 states:  "The fuel shall be a homogeneous blends of hydrocarbons derived from petroleum refining. This shall not preclude the incorporation of small amounts of additives intended to improve some aspects of performance."

However in 8217:2010, the "small amount" was deleted!!! The supplier got the license to incorporate large amounts "additives" which could also mean chemical waste!

Not stopping here, the supplier also wanted to cover himself against a potential claim and referred to Annex B - Deleterious material of ISO 8217:2010 standard which states "It is not therefore practicable to require detailed chemical analysis for each delivery of fuels beyond the requirements listed in the international standard".

It is important to note that ISO 8217:2005 had no Annex B at all. This Annex B was introduced in 2010 standard mainly to protect the supplier when the presence of chemical wastes were identified in the bunker fuel and one of reasons given for this in Annex B is "various analytical techniques are used to detect these contaminants and specific chemical species with no standardized approach;"

Even in a case like this, where both labs recorded high levels of contaminants, the supplier took cover under the final statement of this Annex B that only the requirements listed in ISO 8217:2010 need to be met.

Most unfortunately, 99.99% of fuels that give problems in the machinery comply with ISO 8217.

What this proves is that ISO 8217:2010 is a standard which has been designed to be very kind to the supplier and to lower the bar of fuel quality even more. No doubt some window dressing was provided in 2010 so that a claim could be made that the new standard actually raised the quality level of the fuel. One of these window dressings was to lower the catfine from 80 ppm to 60 ppm when the global average catfine stands at 19.8 ppm!

It is a matter of satisfaction that most fuel buyers are still going by ISO 8217:2005. Those who think that newer is better are in for a major disappointment, particularly when a supplier decides to take advantage of the ISO 8217:2010 standard.


Dr. Ram Vis,
20th June 2011 16:59 GMT

Comments on this Blog
Peter Meeusen - Inspectorate Nederland BV
24th June 2011
Dear Sir,

Chemical waste is defined by Dutch Governmental Authorities:
Total Halogens or Organic Chlorides, max 50 ppm and PCB's max. 2 ppm.( 0.5 ppm per congeneer)
Chemical substances are formed during refining (e.g. phenol at catalytic cracking) or by blending with non-conforming fuels, as shale oil (higher phenols), cutterstocks, ethylene cracker process. These chemical substances are allowed, because no one has forbidden or has given a decent range acceptance / non aceptance. We can not evaluate analytical results with a graduation of low - high and very high, without any reference.
Till today the average styrene monomer content is 200 ppm.
The practical tolerance is lowered to 2000 ppm for styrene monomer in marine fuels ISO 8217 quality..
Styrene monomer (SM)- naphthalene - higher napthalenes - DCPD - DihydroDCPD ,indene and ethylene cracker residue (ECR) are allowed because there is no regulation and test results related to bunkerfuels are different than the analytical equipment capability. Fuel traders are still allowed to use ethylene cracker components as cutterstocks, because we are allowed to blend these chemical substances, mainly diluted ca. 20 times to be find back in conforming fuel according ISO 8217. There is no restriction to blend ethylene cracker byproducts, in marine fuels. These chemical substances have good burning capability and damage to engines is not proven, except ECR. It is by third parties recommended that chemical substances have damaged the engine and its performance, probably basis commercial interest, without technical approval.

Ing. Peter MEEUSEN - Inspectorate Netherlands B.V.

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