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Marine fuel additives: A drop-in solution for IMO 2020 fuels

08 May 2020

Rob Aston

About the Author:

Rob Ashton, the Marine Fuel Additive Business Development Manager at Infineum, has worked in the additives business for more than 30 years, first with Shell and then with Infineum since its start-up 20 years ago. During this time, he has had extensive experience in both fuel and lubricating oil additives. Rob has had jobs in a wide range of functions including R&D, Technical Support, New Business Development & Sales and more recently in Sales and Business Management for Infineum’s global fuel additive distributor network. 

Rob is also coordinating Infineum’s global sales and marketing activities for fuel additives in marine fuel applications dealing with the issues associated with the IMO 2020 sulphur reduction requirements. He is currently based in the UK but has also worked in the US and has extensive experience across many global markets.

It is now 2020 and as anticipated the industry has reported a significant rise in the number of fuels with elevated total sediment (TSA and TSP) levels in all regions. Fuels with elevated Total Sediment are indicative of fuels that could be prone to stability and compatibility issues onboard a ship. Elevated sediment levels can impact the fuel cleaning system on board by upsetting purifier operation and/or clogging filters which in severe cases can lead to a loss of propulsion.

However, the development doesn’t not mean shipowners should accept delivered fuel as it is, especially when solutions to correct issues are available at a fraction of the cost when compared to the other option of debunkering.

Stability and Compatibility

Infineum’s asphaltene management chemistry has a unique ability to positively influence TSP and TSA (as well as all other CIMAC recommended tests that measure S and P values) which in turn improves the inherent stability and compatibility of the fuel being treated.

In 2019, Infineum conducted an extended field trial on board a crude carrier which confirmed the benefits associated with using our additive solutions. In addition to elevated total sediment, elevated fuel acid numbers have been reported and we are currently investigating the ability of our asphaltene management additives to correct this phenomenon as well.

Wax Management

Lower viscosity and high pour point fuels have also increased. Infineum’s wax management additives can provide a solution here by reducing the fuel on-board heating requirements and consequent negative impact on viscosity. Lower viscosity fuels way well lead to accelerated wear and Infineum lubricity additives play a role to provide added protection.

Infineum’s asphaltene management chemistry acts as a very effective dispersant and is able to provide support to the asphaltene colloidal system thus not only preventing the asphaltenes from flocculating, but also keeping asphaltenes in, or returning them to, colloidal solution such that they pass through the very fine filter used in the industry standard hot filtration tests that define acceptable sedimentation levels. This is evidenced by improvements in the insolubility number which is a parameter reported in ASTM D7157 (the S value test), one of the tests recommended in CIMAC guidelines to determine fuel stability and compatibility. Our chemistry also contains some base number boosting componentry and hence we believe will be able to assist in correcting elevated acid number.

Our wax crystal modifiers work by modifying the wax crystal shape as they form thus changing the morphology of the wax and enabling it to remain fluid at depressed temperatures thus preventing wax build up in stagnant areas of a fuel tank as well as reducing on-board heating requirements which can have a negative effect on fuel viscosity, especially in low viscosity fuels.


Infineum lubricity improvers are surface active materials which are able to provide boundary lubrication between engine metal surfaces thus preventing metal on metal wear.  Infineum lubricity additives for marine applications have been tested against and passed the US Navy’s rigorous technical performance requirements for lubricity additives used in their marine equipment.

Moving Forward

Like any industry, Infineum does not have infinite resources, however, we spend a lot of time monitoring the markets we participate in, as well as adjacent markets, and act where we see challenges (and opportunities). The IMO 2020 sulphur cap was one of those market changes that we expected to present challenges. We had early line of sight and decided to create a marine venture team to resource the issues that would result from the fuel changes.

Our planning process back in 2015 backed the correct issues to focus on (stability, compatibility, wax management and lubricity) and by investing in the systematic application of our technical expertise and pulling from multiple disciplines we now have an exceptional range of marine fuel additives to support fuel producers and users so that the market has access to fit for purpose fuels.

Historically, the use of additives in marine fuels has been very limited but now through our close collaborations with refiners, fuel blenders, independent testing labs and ship operators additives are becoming a key contributor to the production of fuels with enhanced performance characteristics, just as they have been for many years in road transportation fuels.  And as the marine industry sets it sights on reducing its carbon footprint, we believe that additives will play an increasing role in marine fuels formulation.

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