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Infineum explains: The ability of additives to ‘save’ off-spec VLSFO bunkers depends on these factors

08 Oct 2020

The following article is part of event coverage for the upcoming Singapore International Bunkering Conference and Exhibition (SIBCON) 2020; where Manifold Times is an official media partner:

International fuel additive company Infineum is still encountering situations where stakeholders of off-spec bunker fuels have been found trying to save their product by using additives in a last minute attempt, according to its Global Fuels Key Accounts Manager.

“Our belief is that fuel suppliers should be providing fuels that not only meet all of the latest required specifications (ISO 8217:2017) but are also fit for purpose for the time that they will be in service and the application for which they are being used,” Steve Benwell told Manifold Times.

“We still see circumstances where a product is ‘off-spec’ and the holder of the fuel is then trying to move it back ‘on-spec’ through the use of appropriate additive technology. In these cases, the ability of additives to ‘save’ the fuel depends on the nature of the problem and its severity.”

According to Benwell, the most common issue seen with Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oils (VLSFOs), a product mainly used by shipowners to meet IMO 2020 compliance, is in sedimentation performance.

“We have also seen many cases where the fuels sedimentation performance is not steady over time, and generally it only ever goes up! VLSFO fuels are typically more paraffinic than the high sulphur counterparts but there is still a desire to get much heavy aromatic material into the fuel since these have high energy density and are cheaper,” he explains.

“This means that many VLSFOs have a higher tendency to destabilise over time as is evident by the higher incidence of sedimentation performance in the industry that is not compliant with ISO 8217.

“This deterioration in sediment performance can occur when fuels are being stored at relatively moderate temperatures (e.g. 50°C) and is not necessarily exposed by the 24-hour aging at 100°C employed in the Total Sediment Potential (TSP) test.

“Addressing this situation through the appropriate additive application can not only protect the fuel holder but also ensure a better experience for their customers further downstream.”

The below list of characteristics and scenarios where the application of additives may, or may not, have an effect on ‘saving’ off-spec VLSFOs has been shared by Benwell:

Sedimentation performance

  • Typically associated with asphaltenes and/or other insoluble materials destabilising and causing the high sedimentation results i.e. >0.1% TSP.
  • Once a fuel has destabilised, and the longer it remains in a destabilised state, the more difficult it is for an additive to get it back ‘on-spec’.
  • Infineum has one of the few additives that can achieve this, but even then it is not assured and depends on the level of sediment in the fuel and the time that it has spent in that state.
  • Additives used at the production point can alleviate that tendency and should be considered by fuel producers for borderline fuels. Testing is the only sure way of knowing whether it will work.

Cold flow characteristics in 0.5% bunker fuels

  • Pour Point and marine gas oil (MGO) Cold Filter Plugging Point can be addressed effectively with wax crystal modification additives as long as the fuel is warm enough where typically the fuel needs to be above the cloud point or the Wax Appearance Temperature of the fuel for the additive to be able to modify the wax crystals as they form in the fuel.
  • The stakeholder also needs to be careful to ensure the additive works for the long term and performance is not lost over time, as this can happen with some chemistries.
  • Cold flow additives can also offer significant benefits in terms of fuel handling in low viscosity fuels.

MGO lubricity

  • Easily addressed with additives and such products are typically designed so that they are easy to bend into the fuel.
  • Stakeholders are recommended to use additives that have been tested against US Navy F76 fuel technical requirements to ensure both the desired level of performance and the robust ‘no harms assurance’ that these specifications ensure.

Physical characteristics

  • Physical characteristics such as sulphur level, flash point, viscosity and the Calculated Carbon Aromaticity Index (CCAI) are not robustly or cost effectively addressable using additive technology and the fuel typically needs to be blended with other fuels or components to address the issue.

“The industry is still coming to terms with the new lower sulphur fuels, especially the wide variety of VLSFO options available where even for perfectly fit for purpose fuels, compatibility between some VLSFOs can be an issue and complete segregation on board may be difficult to achieve,” states Benwell.

“Recently, this has been even further complicated by the Covid-19 Pandemic and its impact on the balance that the refining industry has to strike between crude usage and finished products production.

“However, eventually, we expect the industry to address the issues associated with these new fuels through appropriate specification changes and we expect the ship operators to demand the level of fuel quality required for them to operate their ships without fear of equipment damage or operational difficulties.”

Related: Infineum: Managing Waxy Fuels
Related: Infineum B201 designed for marine fuel stability and compatibility
Related: Inevitable change for marine industry stakeholders ahead, says Infineum

A series of SIBCON 2020 related articles have been earlier written by Manifold Times:

Related: SIBCON 2020: VPS proposes mandate of latest bunker fuel quality standards for Singapore market
Related: SIBCON 2020: Equatorial Marine Fuels provides view on local and global bunker markets post Covid-19
Related: SIBCON 2020: BIMCO Chief Shipping Analyst explains new business dynamics in bunker fuels sector
RelatedChairman of Technical Committee for Bunkering explains SS 660, TR 80; and cast an eye to the future
RelatedSIBCON 2020: TR 48 reaps annual savings of at least SGD 80 million for bunkering sector
RelatedSIBCON 2020: Singapore introduces new MFM bunkering standards SS 660 and TR 80
RelatedSIBCON 2020: Powering Fuels of the Future, Driving towards Decarbonisation
Related: SIBCON 2020: Senior Minister highlights ‘quality resilience and sustainability’ for bunkering sector
RelatedInfineum explains: ISO 8217:2017 should be viewed as a ‘minimum performance benchmark’ for VLSFOs
RelatedInterview: Hafnia shares IMO 2020 preparations, promotes transparency for bunkering operations
RelatedVPS: Shipowners face ‘tricky situation’ to balance VLSFO shelf life and wax appearance temperature
RelatedVPS: Big data analysis reveals link between Covid-19 and spike in low flashpoint MGO off-spec cases
RelatedInterview: Total Marine Fuels Global Solutions discusses sector growth, IMO 2020, and future plans
RelatedSIBCON 2020: Evolution to a ‘completely different’ bunkering industry event, says organiser
RelatedSingapore: SIBCON 2020 bunkering event to be hosted virtually


Photo credit: Manifold Times
Published: 8 October, 2020

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