Time is nigh
8th January 2014 04:00 GMT

The impact of the changing sulphur content in fuels driven by international and national regulations in recent past has directly impacted fuel quality causing concerns amongst ship operators. The bunker and shipping industry has observed in recent years that with each step change reduction in sulphur content – especially in relation to ECA’s - changes to fuel manufacturing processes has resulted in altering fuel chemistry due to blending practices. The increased number of available cutter stocks in the market to reduce sulphur levels has added increasingly unknown chemistry changes to blended fuels in turn affecting the potential reliability of fuels to be fit for purpose.

Well known examples of fuel quality related trends as a consequence of sulphur limit changes are to name just a few, increase in cat fines, components not usually associated with petroleum refining in fuel blends and compatibility/stability issues.

As we look towards 2015 a significant chunk of residual fuel used in the marine industry will be displaced by distillate material with a sulphur content of 0.10% m/m in ECA’s. Operators may be wringing their hands in glee as they envisage burning cleaner fuel in ECA’s however it should not be underestimated that although the fuel may be clean it is not necessarily plain sailing.

Distillate grades with < 0.10% m/m sulphur content have historically never been part of the usual range of distillates used in the marine industry and the consumption of such fuels may well lead to unexpected challenges. It is envisaged that some distillates of the inland automotive market will find their way in to the bunker market with as potential immediate concern a rise in fuels being delivered to shipping with off-specification flash points. The problem with fuels failing the SOLAS flash point requirements is that you cannot use them!

Special care should be taken when ordering low sulphur distillates to ensure that ISO 8217; 2012 specifications are met as ship owners and operators strive to comply with ECA requirements. FAME content, lubricity and minimum viscosity should be met in the interest of not potentially impacting vessels fuel systems and machinery.

In addition to the technical considerations that need to be accounted for in terms of fuel quality requirements, minute details that are critical and easily overlooked should be carefully attended to.

Timing is crucial in order to source suitable distillate fuels that meet both regulatory and technical requirements, as well as to ensure that changeovers are completed well within the required time in order to meet the 0.10% m/m sulphur requirement for the 2015 deadline.

Segregated tanks and fuel lines would be considered as a must for storing fuels of 0.10% m/m sulphur content allowing no tolerance for mixing.

The relevant update of bunker fuel clauses and charter parties is also essential to make certain that all operational, technical and statutory requirements have been taken into consideration between operators/charterers/suppliers.

Distillates, along with alternative fuels and abatement technologies have been on the agenda of many ship owners in preparation for the imminent decrease in sulphur level limits stipulated by regulatory bodies in 2015 and further down the line in 2020 or 2025. As it stands now, using distillates from 2015 onwards for ECA compliance and the midterm future of say 5 years will most likely be the favoured solution with scrubbers and LNG/Methanol bunkers potentially as options further and increasingly considered down the line.

It is clear to all that there are many environmental, financial and operational concerns that play an integral part in the decision making process when it comes to the efficient management of these impending changes.

Many practical lessons have been learnt from complying with changing legislative requirements in recent years and good timely preparation is always key to success. Although 2015 may seem far off it is in reality around the corner and time is nigh.

Maria Kyratsoudi,
8th January 2014 04:00 GMT

Comments on this Blog
Stephen James Weedon
3rd February 2014
Dear Maria
I would appreciate your ideas with regards the use of Emulsion Fuels (as currently being tested on ship born trials by Maersk) these fuels coupled to Exhaust Gas Scrubbers promise to meet future emissions legislation and offer cost savings to the shipping line. Because the Emulsion Fuel ( MSAR2 by Quadrise ) is made from refinery Fuel oil residue it does not use up expensive refinery higher distillates and mitigates the possible complications you article identified.
Ther would at first glance seem to be a marriage in hevennbsl
Christakis Piitarides - Ajax Offshore Bunkering Services Limited
11th April 2014
Dear Maria,

There is a great amount of attention given to FAME content in gasoil and how bad it is. How many cases have you seen of actual problems occuring due to FAME content? I can see how FAME sitting in a tank for long periods might be an issue but what about in working vessels?
Prashant Pramod Lokhande - M.T. Maritime Pte Ltd
16th April 2014
Dear Maria,

Apart from the problems associated with CATFINES, cases of severe damage to Marine Engines due to high concentration of chemically contaminants ( STYRENE,INDENE,DCPD,DH-DCPD,METHYLSTYRENE,ALPHA-METHYLESTYRENE, FAME ETC) in fuels being supplied to vessels seem to be on the rise as we go towards using more fuels with lower and lower Sulphor content. Could you possibly send me some information based on study done by your organization or others such as DNV / VISWA etc. I am sure you would have a comprehensive technical paper / circular based on this problem. Thanks.
Unni Einemo - The International Bunker Industry Association (IBIA)
25th April 2014
Hello Prashant,
Problems blamed on blending HFOs to meet lower sulphur limits may ease as market moves to distillates for ECA compliance in 2015. But testing agencies are warning that distillate quality could deteriorate.
Marco Collyer
25th April 2014
Dear All


-Fleet experience shows : Increased FAME causes gum and deposits to break away and are carried through pipes until fuel reaches and clogs filters.
-Excessive filter plugging during transit into cold water
- Extensive filter clogging and microbiological growth
- Poor stability
- Higroscopic
- Not applicable for long trip

Supply & Trading
Brian Boyd
26th April 2014
Hello All, most of the challenges you address here can be resolved by lowering combustion temperatures (energy of activation) and getting more complete combustion. Check out www.greenfueltechnologies.com. The technology already exists and it pays for itself in better fuel efficiency 2:1 or better depending on your cost of fuel.
agoetfme agoetfme
3rd September 2016
agoetfme agoetfme
3rd September 2016

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