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FOBAS: Microbial contamination and monitoring in marine fuels and bunker storage tanks

06 May 2022

Lloyd’s Register Fuel Oil Bunkering Analysis and Advisory Service (FOBAS) on Thursday (5 May) released a bulletin to caution shipowners on the risks of microbial contamination in marine bunker fuels:

Microbial Contamination and Monitoring

Further to the recent LR class news update drawing attention to the risks of microbial contamination and  damage to ships tanks if left untreated, we would like to follow this up from a marine fuel perspective. 

When talking about microbial contamination this can include bacteria, yeast and mould and different  strains of each. Certain microbes are present in all environments in air and water and under the right  conditions can quickly multiply.  

Microbes need a habitable temperature, a food source and water, all of which can be found in many fuel  tanks. In heavy residual fuels the temperatures involved in storage, handling and treatment are often  enough to kill microbes. However, in marine gas oil and low viscosity fuel oils, the conditions can be much more suitable for growth.  

Depending on the type of microbes present, the problems can be different but some can cause corrosive  damage to storage tanks if left untreated whilst others may produce a thick slime which could block fuel  filters and may have to be manually removed from tanks affected.  

As mentioned, MGO fuels are more susceptible than HFO/VLSFO fuels to microbial contamination. In  addition, fuel containing FAME and other bio-products are often more susceptible due to being more  hydrophilic and potentially containing higher water content.  

Please contact Lloyds Register FOBAS if you have any concerns relating to microbial activity in your fuel  storage tanks as we provide various testing regimes to determine microbial contamination in the fuels as  well as to monitor such contamination in fuel storage tanks.  


Photo credit: Hans Reniers
Published: 6 May, 2022

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