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Bunker Alerts

Bunker Flash: Low flashpoint bunker fuels in Singapore and Indonesia, warns Maritec 

Low flashpoint found in three samples of VLSFO deliveries in Singapore from different suppliers and barges as well as eleven samples of HSD and B35 deliveries in Indonesia, says Maritec.

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Marine fuel testing and marine surveying business Maritec Pte Ltd (CTI-Maritec) on Friday (27 October) issued an alert regarding low-flashpoint bunker fuels found in samples from Singapore and Indonesia.

Maritec Pte Ltd has tested three samples of VLSFO deliveries in Singapore with flashpoint as low as 54°C from different suppliers and barges as well as eleven samples (from the period of 5th September 2023 to 19th October 2023) of HSD and B35 deliveries in Indonesia with flashpoint as low as 41°C from mostly a single supplier.

SOLAS Chapter II-2, Part B, Reg. 4. Clause 2.1.1 states:

“The following limitations shall apply to the use of oil as fuel, except as otherwise permitted by this paragraph, no oil fuel with a flashpoint of less than 60°C shall be used.” 

Recommendations by CTI-Maritec:

If your vessel has bunkered a low flashpoint fuel it is prudent to observe the below precautions:

• Flame screens on tank vents should be maintained in good condition and there should be no sources of ignition in the vicinity of the vents. This will assist in safe natural ventilation of volatile components in the fuel.

• No Smoking, No naked flame and No hot work must be allowed at any areas near to tank air vents.

• Send additional tank(s) samples upon arrival in port to check the fuel properties and flash point

results especially if there has been co-mingling of fuels in bunker tanks

• If the vessel is out at sea it may be possible to obtain dispensation from your Flag State

Administration up to next arrival port

• Put the supplier on notice promptly and notify your P&I club.

ISO 4259 interpretation for tested flashpoint temperature is not taken into consideration here as the safety of onboard crew and vessel is of higher precedence.

This document however does not reflect on the overall quality of fuel being supplied at Singapore, if you intend to bunker at this region please request for a Certificate of Quality prior to loading.

Photo credit: Maritec
Published: 30 October, 2023

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Fuel Testing

VPS publishes 2023 annual review of its findings on bunker fuels

Findings in VPS’ review include 58% of its 2023 Bunker Alerts were for VLSFO fuels, followed by 24% for MGO fuels and 14% for HSFO; most common problematic parameter was Flash Point.

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RESIZED VPS logo

Marine fuels testing company VPS on Tuesday (16 January) published an article titled ‘2023 Marine Bunker Fuels Review’ by Steve Bee, VPS Group Commercial Director, giving insightful annual review of VPS findings on both global and regional maritime fuel matters, focusing on marine fuels. 

Introduction

2023 saw the continuing evolution and the widening of available maritime fuel types and grades, as the global shipping industry gathered decarbonisation momentum to reduce its emissions and achieve current and future legislation targets. Existing CII and EEXI requirements, the incoming EU ETS legislation, plus the slightly longer-term IMO legislation, saw increasing demand for additional testing, lower-carbon fuels, data and digitalisation solutions across the shipping sectors.

As the leading maritime decarbonisation testing and advisory services provider, VPS continued to be at the forefront of marine fuels and lubricants analysis, utilising our experience, expertise and innovative approach, to support this drive for a more sustainable shipping fleet.  

Throughout the year, VPS witnessed further fuel quality issues with VLSFOs in terms of cold-flow property issues, sulphur compliance and cat-fines. HSFO and VLSFO suffered numerous degrees of chemical contamination, whilst MGO suffered from cold-flow, flash point and FAME off-specifications.

Biofuels usage certainly gathered momentum and the increased demand from the market led to increasing queries regarding their fuel management and their “fit-for-purpose” as a drop-in marine fuel, which in turn called upon VPS to provide answers and solutions to customers, utilising our extensive knowledge and understanding of biofuels and their associated test parameters. 

The Marine Fuel Mix

Across 2023, the fuel mix with respect to samples received for testing in VPS laboratories, equated to 62.7 million MT, which is over 5 million MT of marine fuels per month. VLSFO was the most popular marine fuel with 54.3% of the fuels used, followed by 29.5% HSFO (a growth of 15.4% over 2022), 14.2% MGO, 1.2% ULSFO and 0.8% Biofuels. Regarding biofuels usage, the samples tested by VPS equated to an increase from 231,000 MT in 2022 to 558,000 MT in 2023.

VPS 2023 MARINE BUNKER FUELS REVIEW

VPS Bunker Alerts

Bunker Alerts highlight short term fuel quality issues identified by VPS, for a specific test parameter of a specific fuel grade/type in a specific port. The service provides valuable information to customers, to assist in avoiding potentially problematic fuel types in a highlighted port or region, to further protect the customer’s asset and crew.

In 2023 VPS issued 28 Bunker Alerts, eight fewer than in 2022. The 2023 Bunker Alerts included all major fuel grades, i.e. VLSFO, HSFO, MGO and ULSFO, ten different test parameters, 12 ports and 9 countries.

58% of the 2023 Bunker Alerts were for VLSFO fuels, followed by 24% for MGO fuels and 14% for HSFO. The most common problematic parameter was Flash Point, accounting for 28% of the Bunker Alerts, followed by Sodium at 24%, with Sulphur and TSP at 10% each.

Singapore (32%) and ARA (21%) were the regions/ports most frequently requiring a Bunker Alert to be issued. But as these are the two busiest bunkering regions, it is not too surprising.

Screenshot 2024 01 29 104316 0

Screenshot 2024 01 29 104316 1

VLSFO Fuel Quality

As the most used marine fuel type, VLSFO accounts for more than half of the fuels tested by VPS. In terms of quality, Europe provided the highest level of off-specification VLSFOs in both 2023 (7.8%) and 2022 (7.9%). Africa provided the next highest level of off-specification fuels with 6.7% in 2023 and 7.0% in 2022, with North America third with 4.4% of fuels tested exhibiting at least one off-specification parameter in 2023 and 4.3% in 2022.

Screenshot 2024 01 29 104316 2

Screenshot 2024 01 29 104316 3

Sulphur is the most common off-specification parameter of VLSFOs, accounting for 26.6% of VLSFO off-specs in 2023 and 31.5% in 2022. 0.7% of VLSFOs tested in 2023 had a sulphur level of 0.50%-0.53%, with 0.5% of samples tested having a sulphur level greater than 0.53%.

Pour Point was also a common off-specification parameter for VLSFOs with 13.6% of VLSFOs off-specs relating to this parameter in 2023 an increase over the 11.4% level witnessed in 2022. 

The importance of the additional cold-flow test of Wax Appearance Temperature (WAT) and Wax Disappearance Temperature (WDT), was highlighted in 2023 with 63% of VLSFOs exhibiting WAT of 31-40ºC and 14% having WAT between 41-50ºC. 55.7% of VLSFO samples had a WDT of 41-50ºC, with 28.1% having a WDT of >50ºC. VLSFOs cold-flow properties are a definite concern with wax precipitating from the fuel at temperatures way in excess of 10ºC above the pour point, potentially causing numerous operational problems such as filter and pipework blockages.

Sulphur is the most common off-specification parameter of VLSFOs, accounting for 26.6% of VLSFO off-specs in 2023 and 31.5% in 2022. 0.7% of VLSFOs tested in 2023 had a sulphur level of 0.50%-0.53%, with 0.5% of samples tested having a sulphur level greater than 0.53%.

Pour Point was also a common off-specification parameter for VLSFOs with 13.6% of VLSFOs off-specs relating to this parameter in 2023 an increase over the 11.4% level witnessed in 2022. 

The importance of the additional cold-flow test of Wax Appearance Temperature (WAT) and Wax Disappearance Temperature (WDT), was highlighted in 2023 with 63% of VLSFOs exhibiting WAT of 31-40ºC and 14% having WAT between 41-50ºC. 55.7% of VLSFO samples had a WDT of 41-50ºC, with 28.1% having a WDT of >50ºC. VLSFOs cold-flow properties are a definite concern with wax precipitating from the fuel at temperatures way in excess of 10ºC above the pour point, potentially causing numerous operational problems such as filter and pipework blockages.

2023 also saw a significant increase in cat-fine levels in VLSFOs, with 12.7% of all off-specifications relating to this parameter, compared to 8.5% in 2022. 16.2% of all VLSFOs showed a cat-fine level greater than 40ppm. Frequent checking of purifier efficiency via VPS’ Fuel System Checks (FSC) service is a highly recommended proactive safeguard in respect to increased cat-fines within VLSFOs.

VLSFO viscosities vary enormously depending upon to blend components used. In 2023 VLSFO viscosities ranged from <20Cst to >380Cst. 16% of all VLSFO off-specifications were due to viscosity. Only 0.5% of VLSFOs had a viscosity of >380Cst. 68% of all VLSFO viscosities were less than 180Cst. Viscosity is such a key operational parameter, determining the transfer and injection temperatures of fuel onboard ships and therefore determining the exact viscosity of VLSFOs is crucial to ensure optimal efficiency.

Biofuels

As global shipping looks towards low-to-zero carbon fuels to answer many emissions reduction challenges, biofuels offer an immediate “drop-in” solution. As such VPS tested the equivalent of over 500,000 MT of biofuels in 2023 compared to ca. 230,000 MT in 2022.

Europe, (mainly ARA-region) provided the highest volume of biofuels at almost 400K MT (ca. 74%) and Singapore second (ca. 21%), providing just over 100K MT.

The most common biofuel blend was B30 (10-30% bio), which accounted for 34.3% of biofuel samples tested by VPS. Yet, B100 (>90% bio) was not far behind with 30.1%.

The majority of biofuels contained Fatty Acid Methyl Esters (FAME) as the bio-component, although VPS did test others containing HVO, HEFA, Cashew Nut Shell Liquid (CNSL) and Tyre Pyrolysis Oil (TPO).

Where FAME is the bio-component within marine biofuels, the key considerations are:

  • Energy Content, Renewable Content
  • Fuel Stability, Cold-Flow Properties
  • Corrosivity, Microbial Growth

Of the biofuels tested by VPS in 2023, 9% of those tested for oxidation stability gave the concerning result of <5 hours, highlighting a high degree of instability, whilst 6.7% gave a result of 5-8 hours which is still a cause for concern.

In terms of corrosivity, 11.9% of those biofuels tested provided an amber/caution result, whilst 8.5% of those tested provide a red warning, indicating potential high levels of corrosivity.

It is fully expected that the growth in biofuels usage for marine applications will continue to increase across 2024 and the VPS Additional Protection Service (APS) when using biofuels, will only increase in importance as the industry looks for more information regarding the fuel management of biofuels.

Summary

2023 once again highlighted the importance of bunker fuel quality testing, as a proactive means to protect vessels, their crew and the environment. With additional tests, currently not included within ISO8217, providing further  vital information in achieving heightened levels of protection.

Whilst we can expect a new revision of ISO8217 in early 2024, additional tests will still hold an important role in fuel management.

Biofuels usage will continue to increase in demand and importance, as ship owners and operators look to achieve improvements through CII and EEXI, as well as looking to counter the financial impact of the EU ETS scheme.

Methanol demand and usage will also grow, following the recent success of Maersk’s Laura Maersk and the rapidly growing order book for methanol-powered vessels.

So 2024, suggests another year of widening marine fuel types and grades coming to market, coupled with their growing fuel management considerations.

Note: The full article titled ‘2023 Marine Bunker Fuels Review’ with related graphs and charts can be found here

Related: World’s first methanol-fuelled boxship christened and named “Laura Maersk”

 

Photo credit: VPS
Published: 30 January, 2024

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Bunker Fuel Quality

Bunker Flash: Low flashpoint bunker fuels in Indonesia

Seven samples from four different suppliers between 10 to 19 December representing HSD and Bio Distillate grade deliveries in Indonesia found with flashpoint as low as 35°C.

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Maritec low flashpoint bunker fuel in Indonesia

Marine fuel testing and marine surveying business Maritec Pte Ltd (CTI-Maritec) on Wednesday (27 December) issued an alert regarding low-flashpoint bunker fuels found in samples from Indonesia.

Maritec Pte Ltd has tested seven samples from four different suppliers representing HSD and Bio Distillate grade deliveries in Indonesia with flashpoint as low as 35°C for the period of 10 December 2023 to 19 December 2023.

SOLAS Chapter II-2, Part B, Reg. 4. Clause 2.1.1 states:

“The following limitations shall apply to the use of oil as fuel, except as otherwise permitted by this paragraph, no oil fuel with a flashpoint of less than 60°C shall be used.”

Recommendations by CTI-Maritec:

If your vessel has bunkered a low flashpoint fuel it is prudent to observe the below precautions:

  • Flame screens on tank vents should be maintained in good condition and there should be no sources of ignition in the vicinity of the vents. This will assist in safe natural ventilation of volatile components in the fuel.
  • No Smoking, No naked flame and No hot work must be allowed at any areas near to tank air vents.
  • Send additional tank(s) samples upon arrival in port to check the fuel properties and flash point results especially if there has been co-mingling of fuels in bunker tanks.
  • If the vessel is out at sea it may be possible to obtain dispensation from your Flag State Administration up to next arrival port.
  • Put the supplier on notice promptly and notify your P&I club.

ISO 4259 interpretation for tested flashpoint temperature is not taken into consideration here as the safety of onboard crew and vessel is of higher precedence.

This document however does not reflect on the overall quality of fuel being supplied at Indonesia, if you intend to bunker at this region please request for a Certificate of Quality prior to loading.

Photo credit: Maritec
Published: 28 December 2023

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Bunker Fuel Quality

CTI-Maritec: Update on Houston bunker fuel problem

It can be argued that these fuels represented by the tested samples may not meet the general requirements outlined in clause 5 of ISO8217, says CTI-Maritec.

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Bunker fuel testing and marine surveying business Maritec Pte Ltd (CTI-Maritec) on Wednesday (4 October) issued an alert regarding fuel samples collected from the region showed significant high levels of two particular compounds and gave its recommendations:

In recent times, there have been notable machinery issues affecting vessels bunkering from the United States, particularly in the Houston area. These problems include failures in Main Engine startup, loss of power from auxiliary engines resulting in the loss of propulsion, and fuel pump malfunctions, among others. These concerns have been widely reported in the news.

CTI-Maritec, an independent fuel testing laboratory, has undertaken an investigation into fuel samples collected from this region. The analysis has revealed elevated levels of specific compounds, which have raised concerns about the stability of the fuel being used in these vessels.

Over the past few months, our testing has identified three vessel fuel samples with significantly high levels of two compounds:

• Dihydro-dicyclopentadiene (ranging from 1200 ppm to 6000 ppm) and

• Tetrahydro-dicyclopentadiene (ranging from 2500 ppm to 5500 ppm)

These samples exhibited a poor reserve stability, measured using manual P-value by SMS1600 test method. This suggests a lack of homogeneity in the fuel sample, which could potentially pinpoint to similar conditions in the supplied fuel.

Table 1 (page 2) shows our findings for one of the samples upon progressive dilution with cetane, a paraffinic solvent prescribed for SMS1600 test method.

Screenshot 2023 10 05 at 10.30.21 AM

Recommendation by CTI-Maritec

For acceptable fuel stability asphaltene flocculation generally does not occur upon cetane dilution up to 30%, and fuels that are able to withstand dilution up to 50% are considered as stable fuels for strategic long-term storage.

For the sample tested, asphaltene flocculation was detected prior to cetane dilution and gradual increase of cetane % increased the observed flocculation levels which indicates the fuel has poor stability reserve.

The presence of the compounds detected at elevated levels for the fuels tested increases the risk of unmanageable sludge deposition in the fuel oil system. This, in turn, can result in complications related to fuel treatment processes and engine operation.

It is worth noting that while these compounds are commonly found in marine bunker fuels, their current prevalence in this region is unusually high. This may indicate inadequate quality control measures within the production and supply chain.

Based on the above findings, it can be argued that these fuels represented by the tested samples may not meet the general requirements outlined in clause 5 of ISO8217. Therefore, if your vessel is bunkering in this area, we strongly advise you to request the fuel supplier to provide a Certificate of Quality from an accredited laboratory.

This certificate should, at a minimum, confirm the absence of the aforementioned compounds using accredited GC-MS methods. This precautionary measure is crucial to ensure the safe and reliable operation of your vessel's machinery.

This document, however, does not reflect on the overall quality of fuel being supplied in the Houston region.

Photo credit: Maritec Pte Ltd
Published: 5 October, 2023

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