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INTERVIEW: VLSFO bunker contamination could resurface on USD 80 to 90 bbl oil, warns consultant

Shipowners and marine fuel buyers can protect themselves by requesting for COQ of the purchased product directly from the bunker supplier, William Tan of Miyabi Industries tells Manifold Times.

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The following interview arranged by Conference Connection is part of pre-event coverage for the upcoming 12th International Fujairah Bunkering & Fuel Oil Forum (FUJCON 2021), where Manifold Times is an official media partner. Readers can register for the virtual event by clicking on the link here.

Shipowners and marine fuel buyers should pay more attention to bunker fuel quality when the price of Brent crude starts increasing to between USD 80 to 90 per barrel, advises the Senior Vice President of Singapore-based marine fuels consultancy Miyabi Industries.

“Bunker quality, particularity for the Very Low Sulphur Fuel Oil (VLSFO) grade, is expected to be consistent this year if oil prices continue to remain predictable and stable,” William Tan, also Principal Consultant of the company, told Manifold Times.

“The only exception to the above scenario is when an oil price spike to the region of USD 80 to 90 per barrel [for Brent crude] happens; in this case bunker suppliers and/or blenders may be tempted to produce VLSFOs with other components and blends due to margins – which was what happened during 2018 at Houston.”

In 2018, the price of Brent crude oil prices rose from USD 71 per barrel on 25 January and peaked at USD 86 per barrel on 4 October.

It was well documented several vessels experienced operational and engine issues from bunker contamination due to marine fuel lifted at Houston during 2018 up till early 2019, after local suppliers introduced foreign material in bunker blending streams.

“The quality of VLSFO later varied between bunker suppliers from mid-2019 to the first five months of IMO 2020 as this was an experimental period where parties were trying to perfect a cost-effective blend while complying with the 0.5% sulphur limit,” he explained.

Tan also performs the roles of being an expert witness, technical consultant, meditator and arbitrator on bunker dispute cases.

“As such, the period of between mid-2019 to 1H 2020 was where we handled a lot of fuel quality disputes as a result of VLSFO issues,” he shares.

“But from the second half of 2020 till to date, we encountered much fewer claims arising out of severe VLSFO off-specs and can only attribute this to the stable quality of VLSFO. It means the blenders have got the formula right, while part of the reason is also due to lower vessel sailings amidst the current coronavirus pandemic.

“There are concerns on Ultra Low Sulphur Gas Oil (ULSGO) especially on low flash point and cold flow properties where low temperatures can cause the ULSFO to become jelly-like.

“This phenomenon is known to choke up the purifiers and fuel filters, ultimately starving the engines of fuel. Most of these issues could occur during the colder seasons as the ULSGO were of higher pour and cold filter plugging point”.

Some steps shipowners can take to minimise such incidences is to ensure the grade of ULSGO they order is suitable for use during colder months.

Moving forward, Tan recommends shipowners and marine fuel buyers to protect themselves by ordering marine fuels with the latest ISO 8217 specs and requesting for the Certificate of Quality (COQ) of the purchased product directly from the bunker supplier.

“The COQ should match the product delivered from the bunker tanker to the receiving vessel and not from the oil cargo terminal; it is effectively a warranty for the bunker fuel purchased,” he notes.

“If shipowners adopt this procedure and bunker suppliers are willing to provide this information, we will see more than 50% of bunker claims easily resolved in the event of disputes.”

Singapore, by far and large, has already solved these COQ issues with the introduction of Singapore Standard 660:2020 (SS 660), also known as the Code of Practice for Bunker Cargo Delivery from Oil Terminal to Bunker Tanker using Mass Flow Meter, highlights Tan, who expects other international ports to follow the republic’s led.

SS 660 covers quality requirements, which specify taking a representative fuel sample at the custody transfer point to determine compliance with the agreed fuel specifications to assure the bunker quality delivered to bunker suppliers; it strengthens the application of SS 524 on Specification for quality management for bunker supply chain, which is adopted by bunker suppliers.

Note: William Tan is the Course Director of the upcoming Practical Handling of VLSFO and ULSMGO Post 2020 virtual training session to be held on 15 to 16 March 2021. The course is organised by Conference Connection and held as part of FUJCON 2021. Interested delegates may register for this training via the link here.

He will be speaking at Session 5: Bunker Outlook & Marine Fuel Quality: Tackling the Challenges Post 2020 at FUJCON 2021.

 

Photo credit: Miyabi Industries
Published: 9 March, 2021

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Research

Sea Cargo Charter report demonstrates shipping’s shortfall against IMO climate goals

2024 report highlights the gap between current emissions and the IMO’s revised strategy for net-zero emissions by 2050.

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Sea Cargo Charter 2024 report

The shipping industry must take urgent action to meet ambitious new climate targets set by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), according to a new report released on Thursday (13 June) from the Sea Cargo Charter (SCC), a global transparency initiative developed by the Global Maritime Forum.

New data from the SCC, a global framework representing 20% of global bulk cargo transport, reveals the sector fell short of minimum international climate goals set by the IMO by an average of 17% in 2023, equivalent to 165 million metric tonnes of CO2e.

When considering ‘striving’ goals set by the IMO, signatories are on average 22% misaligned, which represents a shortfall of 204 million metric tonnes of CO2e in 2023.

Currently, dry bulk, general cargo, and tankers account for around 400 million tonnes of CO2 emissions. With global trade predicted to quadruple by 2050, emissions will skyrocket without urgent action.

Reporting has also been expanded to include “well-to-wake” emissions, which measure emissions from the extraction of oil to its end use, providing a more comprehensive picture of environmental impact and pushing the industry towards faster decarbonisation.

The 2024 report highlights the gap between current emissions and the IMO’s revised strategy for net-zero emissions by 2050. The report shows the importance of commercial and operational decisions on the vessels’ use (such as, instructed speed, cargo and routing optimisation, laden/ballast ratio), innovation and cooperation within the industry to be able to take action in this transition.

Other identified barriers to cutting emissions are geopolitical disruptions, limited alternative marine fuel options for long voyages, and a lack of infrastructure to support new technologies.

The 2024 Annual Disclosure Report was produced by the Global Maritime Forum, which performs secretariat services for the Sea Cargo Charter with expert support provided by UMAS and the Smart Freight Centre.

 

Photo credit: Sea Cargo Charter
Published: 14 June 2024

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Ammonia

Expert discusses technical considerations of using ammonia as marine fuel

Ammonia as bunker fuel poses significant safety challenges due to its toxicity and flammability, says ABS Regional Business Development Manager Muammer Akturk.

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Technical considerations of ammonia as marine fuel

Muammer Akturk, ABS Regional Business Development Manager, on Monday (10 June) published an article on technical considerations of using ammonia as a marine fuel in his Alternative Marine Fuels Newsletter.

The article dives into the use of ammonia as a marine fuel, focusing on the safety and technical considerations necessary for its implementation.

Ammonia is recognised for its potential as a zero-carbon fuel, making it an attractive option for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the shipping industry. However, it poses significant safety challenges due to its toxicity and flammability.

Key points discussed include:

  1. Safety Measures: The importance of stringent design and operational safety measures to prevent ammonia releases and mitigate risks during both normal and emergency conditions is emphasized. This includes the need for gas dispersion analyses and the use of safety systems like gas detectors and alarms
  2. Regulatory Framework: The article reviews the latest regulations and guidelines developed to ensure the safe use of ammonia as a marine fuel. This includes the IACS Unified Requirement H1, which provides a framework for controlling ammonia releases on vessels
  3. Engineering Considerations: Technical aspects such as fuel storage, handling systems, and the role of risk assessments in identifying potential hazards and implementing preventive measures are detailed
  4. Human Factors: The article also considers the human factors approach to safety, emphasizing training and the importance of designing systems that account for human errorOverall, the article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges and solutions associated with using ammonia as a marine fuel, highlighting the importance of safety and regulatory compliance in its adoption.

Editor’s note: The full article can be found at the link here.

 

Published: 13 June 2024

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Analysis

JLC China Bunker Market Monthly Report (March 2024)

China’s bonded bunker fuel sales grew in March, as the shipping industry recovered gradually and sellers actively boosted sales on the back of ample supply and high inventories.

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JLC Bonded bunker fuel sales in Zhoushan (Mar 2024)

Beijing-based commodity market information provider JLC Network Technology Co. recently shared its JLC China Bunker monthly report for March 2024 with Manifold Times through an exclusive arrangement:

Bunker Fuel Demand

China’s bonded bunker fuel sales surge in March

China’s bonded bunker fuel sales grew in March, as the shipping industry recovered gradually and sellers actively boosted sales on the back of ample supply and high inventories. Domestic LSFO prices were lower than those in Singapore and other neighboring ports, incentivizing shipowners or operators to refuel their vessels in China, with bunkering volume in Shanghai and Zhoushan rising considerably.

The country sold about 1.82 million mt of bonded bunker fuel in the month, with the daily sales up 13.59% month on month to 58,658 mt, JLC’s data shows.

Sales by Chimbusco, Sinopec (Zhoushan) and China ChangJiang Bunker (Sinopec) came in at 540,000 mt, 630,000 mt and 30,000 mt in March, while those by suppliers with regional bunkering licenses settled at 558,400 mt. At the same time, SinoBunker sold about 60,000 mt of bonded bunker fuel, the data indicates.

China’s bonded bunker fuel exports rise in first two months

China’s bonded bunker fuel exports rose in the first two months of this year, underpinned by fresh quotas and larger production.

The country exported a combination of 3.02 million mt of bonded bunker fuel in January-February, growing by 3.13% from the same months in 2023, JLC estimated, with reference to data from the General Administration of Customs of the PRC (GACC).

Heavy bunker fuel exports totaled about 2.85 million mt in the two months, accounting for 94.13% of the total, while light bunker fuel exports were 177,500 mt, accounting for 5.87%.

The increase in the exports mainly came as China released this year’s first batch of quotas on LSFO exports at the end of 2023. Though refiners’ LSFO production margins were relatively poor, they ramped up their production amid new quotas, which buoyed the exports. China’s LSFO output totaled 2.57 million mt in January-February, with the daily output gaining 2.69% year on year to 42,850 mt, JLC’s data shows.

In January alone, China’s bonded bunker fuel exports settled at 1.78 million mt, jumping by 11.93% month on month and 34.71% year on year.

However, the exports plunged to 1.25 million mt in February, down by 29.99% month on month and 22.75% year on year. Bunkering business at Chinese ports was halted during the Chinese New Year holiday, and customs’ clearing procedure for export was also affected by the holiday. In addition, the operation of many ports was hit hard by heavy snow and freezing rains, adding to the downward pressure on the exports.

 

JLC China bunker exports by region 2023 2024

 

JLC China major blending producers' bunker supply (Mar 2024)

Domestic-trade bunker fuel demand rises in March

Domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel demand recovered mildly in March, as the shipping industry rebounded after the Chinese New Year holiday. However, the demand growth was still limited as some shipowners still suspended services and the market was dominated by wait-and-see sentiment amid high prices.

Domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel demand was estimated at 430,000 mt in the month, a gain of 70,000 mt or 19.44% from a month earlier, JLC’s data shows.

Meanwhile, domestic-trade light bunker fuel demand was estimated at about 140,000 mt, a gain of 20,000 mt or 16.67% from a month earlier, the data indicates.

Bunker Fuel Supply

China’s bonded bunker fuel imports soar in Jan-Feb

China’s bonded bunker fuel imports soared in January-February 2024, due to a low base a year earlier.

The country recorded 581,900 mt of bonded bunker fuel imports in the two months, a surge of 27.36% year on year, with 359,200 mt in January and 222,700 mt in February, JLC estimated, with reference to data from the GACC.

China’s bonded bunker fuel imports dived to a record low in January-February 2023, as bunkering demand had not fully recovered from the epidemic, also because of high freight rates and ample domestic supply. The imports totaled only 456,900 mt in the first two months of 2023, tumbling by 48.01% year on year.

On the other hand, Chinese refiners boosted LSFO production in January-February 2024, limiting the import growth. These refiners produced about 2.57 million mt of LSFO in the two months, with the daily output climbing by 2.69% year on year to 42,850 mt, JLC’s data shows.

Russia became the largest bonded bunker fuel supplier in the first two months of this year, exporting 276,800 mt to China, accounting for 47.57% of the latter’s total imports. Malaysia ranked second with 186,800 mt, accounting for 32.10%, followed by South Korea with 95,800 mt, accounting for 16.46%. Japan climbed to the fourth place with 21,500 mt, occupying 3.69%, while Singapore slipped to the fifth place with only 1,000 mt, making up 0.17%.

In China’s bonded bunker fuel market, only HSFO and MGO are still mainly imported, while LSFO is rarely imported as its import efficiency is relatively low amid steep freight rates.

JLC Bonded bunker fuel imports by source Jan Feb 2024

Domestic-trade bunker fuel supply increases in March

Domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel supply improved in March, as availability of some blendstocks (such as low-sulfur residual oil and shale oil) increased.

Chinese blenders supplied about 460,000 mt of domestic-trade heavy bunker fuel in the month, a rise of 60,000 mt or 15% from February, JLC’s data shows.

Similarly, domestic-trade MGO supply rose to 160,000 mt in March, up 30,000 mt or 23.08% month on month, the data shows. Refineries’ enthusiasm for MGO production improved in March, as domestic MGO prices moved up along with domestic oil products.

JLC Arrival of imported fuel oil cargoes

 

JLC China main oil blending feedstock prices

JLC China domestic trading 180 cSt bunker fuel price 2023 2024

JLC China bunker blending profit by region 2023 2024

Editor
Yvette Luo
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Sales (Beijing)
Tony Tang
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Sales (Singapore)
Ginny Teo
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JLC Network Technology Co., Ltd is recognized as the leading information provider in China. We specialized in providing the transparent, high-value, authoritative market intelligence and professional analysis in commodity market. Our expertise covers oil, gas, coal, chemical, plastic, rubber, fertilizer and metal industry, etc.

JLC China Bunker Fuel Market Monthly Report is published by JLC Network Technology Co., Ltd every month on China bunker market, demand, supply, margin, freight index, forecast and so on. The report provides full-scale & concise insight into China bunker oil market.

All rights reserved. No portion of this publication may be photocopied, reproduced, retransmitted, put into a computer system or otherwise redistributed without prior authorization from JLC.

Related: JLC China Bunker Fuel Market Monthly Report (February 2024)
RelatedJLC China Bunker Market Monthly Report (January 2024)

Note: China-based commodity market information provider JLC Technology has been providing Singapore bunkering publication Manifold Times China bunker volume data since 2020. Data from earlier periods are available here.

 

Photo credit: JLC Network Technology
Published: 11 April 2024

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